?Mass at Santa Marta – Christians? Yes, but….
How many people say they are Christians but don’t accept “the way” that
God wants to save us? They are the ones Pope Francis defined as “Christians,
yes, but…”, incapable of understanding that salvation passes through the
cross. And Jesus on the Cross — the Pontiff explained in his homily during Mass
at Santa Marta on Tuesday, 24 March — is the very “core of the message of the
In the passage from the
Gospel according to John (8:21-30), Jesus says: “When you have lifted up the
Son of man…” and, foretelling of his death on the cross, evokes the bronze
serpent that Moses raised “to heal the Israelites in the desert” and which was
recounted in the First Reading from the Book of Numbers (21:4-9). The People of
God enslaved in Egypt, the Pope explained, had been freed: “They had truly seen
miracles. And when they were afraid, at the time of the Pharaoh’s persecution,
when they were faced with the Red Sea, they saw the miracle” that God performed
for them. The “journey of liberation” thus began in joy. The Israelites “were
happy” because they had been “liberated from slavery”, happy because “they
carried with them the promise of very good land, a land for them alone”, and
because “none of them had died” on the first part of the journey. The women
were also happy because they had “the jewels of the Egyptian women” with them.
At a certain point
though, the Pontiff continued, at the moment in which “the journey was getting
long”, the people could no longer bear it and “they grew tired”. Therefore they
began to speak “against God and against Moses: why have you brought us up out
of Egypt to die in the wilderness?”. They began to “criticize: to speak against
God, against Moses”, saying: “Here there is no bread and no water, and we
loathe this worthless food, this manna”. In other words, the Israelites
“loathed God’s help, a gift of God. And thus that initial joy of liberation
became sorrow, complaining”.
They would have
probably preferred to be freed by “a magician performing magic with a wand”
rather than a God who made them walk and made them “earn salvation” or “at
least partly deserve it” by acting “in a
In the Scripture we
meet a “discontented people” and, Francis pointed out, “criticizing is a way
out of this discontentment”. In their discontent, “they vented, but they didn’t
realize that the soul becomes poisoned with this attitude”. Thus, the serpents
arrive, because “like this, like the venom of serpents, at this moment these
people had a poisoned spirit”.
Jesus, too, speaks of
the same attitude, of “this way of not being content, not satisfied”. The
Pontiff then referred to a passage from the Gospels of both Matthew (11:17) and
Luke (7:32): “When Jesus speaks of this attitude He says: ‘How are you to be
understood? Are you like those youths in the square: we played for you and you
did not dance; we wailed and you did not mourn. Does nothing satisfy you?’”.
The problem “wasn’t salvation” but rather “liberation”, because “everyone wanted
this”; the problem was “God’s way: they didn’t like dancing to God’s song; they
didn’t like mourning to God’s lamentations”. So “what did they want”? They
wanted, the Pope explained, to act “according to their own thoughts, to choose
their own path to salvation”. But that path “didn’t lead to anything”.
This is an attitude
that we still encounter today. “Among Christians”, Francis asked, how many are
“somewhat poisoned” by this discontentment? We hear: “Yes, truly, God is good.
Christians, yes, but…”. They are the ones, he continued, “who end up not
opening their heart to God’s salvation” and who “always ask for conditions”;
the ones who say: “Yes, yes, yes, I want to be saved, but on this path”. This
is how “the heart becomes poisoned”. This is the heart of “lukewarm Christians”
who always have something to complain about: “‘Why has the Lord done this to
me?’ — ‘But He saved you, He opened the door for you, He forgave you of so many
sins’ — ‘Yes, yes, it’s true, but…’”. Thus the Israelites in the desert said:
“I would like water, bread, but the kind I like, not not this worthless food. I
loathe it”. And we too “so often say that we loathe the divine way”.
“Not accepting the gift of God with his way, that is the sin; that is the venom;
that poisons our soul, it takes away your joy, it doesn’t let you go”.
So “how does the Lord
resolve this? With poison itself, with sin itself”: in other words “He takes
the poison, the sin, upon Himself and is lifted up”. Thus “this warmth of soul,
this being halfway Christians” this being “Christians, yes, but…” becomes
healed. The healing, the Pope explained, comes only by “looking to the cross”,
by looking to God who takes on our sins: “my sin is there”. However “how many
Christians in the desert die of their sorrow, of their complaining, of their
not wanting God’s way”. This is for every Christian to reflect upon: while God
“saves us and shows us what salvation is like”, I “am not really able to
tolerate a path that I don’t like much”. This is the “selfishness that Jesus
rebukes in his generation”, which said of John the Baptist: “He has a demon”.
And when the Son of Man came, He was defined as a “glutton” and a “drunkard”.
And so, the Pope asked, “who understands you?”. He added, “I too, with my
spiritual caprice regarding the salvation that God gives me, who understands
Therefore, there is an
invitation to the faithful: “Look at the serpent, the venom there in the Body
of Christ, the poison of all the sins of the world and let ask for the grace to
accept the divine way of salvation; to also accept this food, so wretched that
the Hebrews complained about it”: the grace, that is, “to accept the ways by
which the Lord leads me forth”. Francis concluded by praying that Holy Week may
“help us to leave behind this temptation to become “ Christians, yes, but…’”.