Pope Francis stressed this when celebrating Mass in the majority Muslim nation of Azerbaijan this morning. The Pontiff drew inspiration from today’s Gospel which presents two essential aspects of the Christian life, those of faith and service, which he underscored, can never be separated.
Francis highlighted how God treats His faithful all in the same way, namely he does not immediately indulge our desire to immediately and repeatedly change the world and other people. Instead, he requires our patience and trust, while intending to heal our hearts.
“God changes the world by transforming our hearts, and this he cannot do without us. The Lord wants us to open the door of our hearts, in order to enter into our lives. And this act of opening to him, this trust in him is precisely “the victory that overcomes the world, our faith” (1 Jn 5:4). For when God finds an open and trusting heart, then he can work wonders there.”
The Pontiff then recalled when the Apostles asked the Lord to increase their faith, and reminded those present that it is our responsibility to nurture our faith.
“Faith,” Francis said, “is no magic power which comes down from heaven, it is not a ‘talent’ which is given once and for all, not a special force for solving life’s problems. A faith useful for satisfying our needs would be a selfish one, centered entirely on ourselves.”
“Faith must not be confused with well-being or feeling well, with having consolation in our heart that gives us inner peace. Faith is the golden thread which binds us to the Lord, the pure joy of being with Him, united to Him; it is a gift that lasts our whole life, but bears fruit only if we play our part.”
The Pontiff then stressed that Jesus has helped us understand that we are called to not just faith, but service.
“Faith and service cannot be separated; on the contrary, they are intimately linked, interwoven with each other. In order to explain this, I would like to take an image very familiar to you, that of a beautiful carpet.”
Jesus reminds us that we are invited to imitate Him in service, Francis stressed.
“And so,” the Pope explained, “we are not called to serve merely in order to receive a reward, but rather to imitate God, who made himself a servant for our love. Nor are we called to serve only now and again, but to live in serving.”
“Service is thus a way of life; indeed it recapitulates the entire Christian way of life: serving God in adoration and prayer; being open and available; loving our neighbor with practical deeds; passionately working for the common good.”
For Christians too, the Holy Father acknowledged, there are no shortage of temptations which lead us away from the path of service.
No to Lukewarmness
“Where there is no service, life is useless,” he said, noting two forms in particular, the first being allowing our hearts to grow lukewarm.
“A lukewarm heart becomes self-absorbed in lazy living and it stifles the fire of love. The lukewarm person lives to satisfy his or her own convenience, which is never enough, and in that way is never satisfied; gradually such a Christian ends up being content with a mediocre life. The lukewarm person allocates to God and others a ‘percentage’ of their time and their own heart, never spending too much, but rather always trying to economize.”
“And so, he or she can lose the zest for life: rather like a cup of truly fine tea, which is unbearable to taste when it gets cold,” he said.
Thinking Like Masters
The Pontiff also warned against the temptation of being ‘overactive,’ where we are ‘thinking like masters,’ of giving oneself only in order to gain something or become someone. In these cases, he said, service becomes a means and not an end, because the end has become prestige or power.
The Pontiff encouraged those present to always stay united, living humbly in charity and joy, for the Lord, “Who creates harmony from differences, will protect you.”
Pope Francis concluded, praying for the intercession of Mary and the saints, especially Saint Teresa of Calcutta, and reminding those gathered of the recently canonized saint’s words which summarize today’s message: “The fruit of faith is love. The fruit of love is service. The fruit of service is peace” (A Simple Path, Introduction).