Focusing on the Apostle John’s words “remain in the Lord” from the day’s first reading, Pope Francis told those gathered in the chapel of the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse that this expression is a “counsel for life.”
John, the Pontiff noted, displays for us “one of the attitudes of the Christian who wants to remain in the Lord: to understand what’s happening in one’s own heart,” and for this reason he cautions us “not to trust every spirit, but test the spirits.”
Observing that there are some spirits which help us to “remain in the Lord” and others that “take us away from Him,” the Pope urged those in attendance to “test the spirits to see if they really come from God, because many false prophets have come into the world.”
This, stated the Pope, is “why vigilance is necessary. The Christian is a man or a woman who knows to keep watch over his or her heart.”
Highlighting how often times our hearts filled with “so many things that come and go,” Pope Francis explained that they can seem like “a local market: everything, you can find everything there.”
“No! We need to test things – this is from the Lord, and this is not – in order to remain in the Lord,” he continued, adding that the Apostle John gives us a “simple” criterion to determine what is from God and what is from the antichrist.
“Every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God, and every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus does not belong to God,” the Pope noted, “this is the spirit of the antichrist.”
To fully recognize that “that the Word is come in the flesh,” Pope Francis explained, means to recognize “the path of Jesus Christ” and that Jesus, “being God, He emptied Himself, He humbled Himself” even to “death on the Cross.”
“If a thought, if a desire takes you along the road of humility and abasement, of service to others, is from Jesus,” noted the Pontiff, “but if it brings you to the road of sufficiency, of vanity, of pride, along the path of an abstract thought, it is not from Jesus.”
Recalling the three temptations of Jesus in the wilderness, the Pope explained that “all three proposals the demon makes to Jesus are proposals that intended to take Him away from this path, the path of service, of humility, of humiliation, of charity.”
“But the charity accomplished with His life, no? To the three temptations Jesus says no: ‘No, this is not my path!’”
Inviting those present to question themselves about what is in their own hearts, the Pontiff asked “Do I test what I think, what I want, what I desire, or do I accept it all” without discerning?
“So many times, our heart is a road, everything passes there,” he affirmed, “Put it to the test! Do I always choose the things that come from God? Do I know which are the things that come from God? Do I know the true criterion by which to discern my thoughts, my desires?”
Concluding his reflections, Pope Francis encouraged the congregation to think about these questions, and not to forget “that the criterion is the Incarnation of the Word.”
“The Word is come in the flesh: this is Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ who was made man, God made man, who lowered Himself, humbled Himself for love, in order to serve all of us.”
“May the Apostle John” he prayed, “grant us this grace to know what is happening in our hearts, and to have the wisdom to discern what is of God and what is not of God.”