Right before Christmas, Pope Francis offered his Christmas greetings to members of the Curia. It turned out to be a rather tough message… a listing of diseases and temptations which weaken our service to the Lord. While you should certainly read the whole thing, here is a shorthand of the Pope’s words, italicized, along with proposed remedies and cures. Healing also comes about through an awareness of our sickness insisted Pope Francis who encouraged a personal and communal decision to be cured by patiently and perseveringly accepting the remedy.
- The disease of thinking we are “immortal”, “immune” or downright “indispensable” only inflates our own self-importance. It is often an effect of the pathology of power, from a superiority complex, from a narcissism which passionately gazes at its own image and does not see the image of God on the face of others, especially the weakest and those most in need. At the recent NCCYM, Roy Petifils reminded us to be watchful of seeing the brokenness of individuals, especially our
- Another disease is the “Martha complex”, excessive busy-ness. It is found in those who immerse themselves in work and inevitably neglect “the better part”: sitting at the feet of Jesus. We need to take control of our schedules, just enough, to ensure enough time of rest, enough for spending time with one’s family, and respecting moments of spiritual and physical recharging.
- The disease of mental and spiritual “petrification,” described as having a heart of stone, being “stiff-necked,” and/ or hiding under a pile of papers, having lost “the sentiments of Jesus” The Holy Father encouraged a review of Phil 2:5-11 and aspiring to the attributes of humility and unselfishness, of detachment and generosity.
- The disease of excessive planning and of functionalism. Basically this is the old standard advice to couples slow dancing at a high school prom: Leave room for the Holy Spirit. You cannot plan individual responses of inspiration and conversion. In truth, the Church shows her fidelity to the Holy Spirit to the extent that she does not try to control or tame him… to tame the Holy Spirit! … He is freshness, imagination, and newness”. We must remain open to the Spirit at the risk (and joy) of being surprised ourselves
- The disease of poor coordination. This basically speaks to the discomfort and scandal of operating out of a silo mentality, just running our own show and not collaborating and sharing leadership with others.
- Getting completely caught up in the present moment, in passions, whims and obsessions; which inflicts a “spiritual Alzheimer’s disease.” basically losing the memory of our personal “salvation history”, our past history with the Lord and our “first love” (Rev2:4) discovered in our own . It involves a progressive decline in the spiritual faculties which in the long or short run greatly handicaps a person by making him incapable of doing anything on his own encounter with the Lord….. So, basically, always remember who we are and whose we are.
- The disease of rivalry and vainglory. There seems a need to always go for “the win,” but the truest victory is found in Christ whose triumph is tied into the cross. We might compete in need to improve, but we improve not for ourselves but within the Spirit.
- The disease of existential schizophrenia. This is the disease of those who live a double life, the fruit of that hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and of a progressive spiritual emptiness which no doctorates or academic titles can fill. This is a challenge for those who live “above it all” and separate themselves from the messiness of the world yet quietly lead lives fully immersed in the messiness themselves. Pope Francis insists that conversion is most urgent and indeed indispensable, a turning from the reign of self towards the Reign of God.
- The disease of gossiping, grumbling and back-biting. It is the disease of cowardly persons who lack the courage to speak out directly, but instead speak behind other people’s backs. Here again is a conflict between the reign of one’s own viewpoint over the Reign of God’s vision of Grace and Salvation.
- The disease of idolizing superiors. This is a violation of the first commandment regarding placing strange gods before God. This may be related to incessant subservience or in our own insistence, serving our own needs. Either way, Pope Francis suggests that this serves small-minded thinking only of what they can get and not of what they should give.
- The disease of indifference to others. There is a difference between detachment and indifference. When we find ourselves withholding assistance or celebrate harm falling upon another, we are not living up to the model of the Good Samaritan.
- The disease of a lugubrious face. Pope Francis continues to insist that the face of the New Evangelization should not be glum and dour. An apostle must make an effort to be courteous, serene, enthusiastic and joyful, a person who transmits joy everywhere he goes. A heart filled with God is a happy heart which radiates an infectious joy: it is immediately evident!
- The disease of hoarding. Travel lightly, do not let possessions weigh you down.
- The disease of closed circles. We who serve with young people know the destruction of clichés, yet still often fall into them. Pope Francis is correct when he describes the self-destruction, “friendly fire” from our fellow soldiers, as the most insidious danger. We must keep our cirles open and be willing (desirous, actually) to always expand them.
- The disease of worldly profit, of forms of self-exhibition. When an apostle turns his service into power, and his power into a commodity in order to gain worldly profit or even greater power. This is the disease of persons who insatiably try to accumulate power and to this end are ready to slander, defame and discredit others. We always need to self-examine our motives; do we lighten our reputation or self-perception at the risk of darkening our own soul in the very same action?
The Holy Father addressed this list of infirmities to members of the Curia, but…. You know and I know that we have been victims of such illness as well as victimized others as well. As members of the Body of Christ, we must make sure to take care of ourSelf! We need to be clear that it is only the Holy Spirit who can heal all our infirmities. He is the soul of the Mystical Body of Christ; as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed says: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, Lord and Giver of Life”.
We pray with the Psalmist: The righteous cry out, the Lord hears and he rescues them from all their afflictions. (34:18)