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Pope Francis gives a blessing alongside newly ordained priests as he leads the "Regina Coeli" from his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square May 7 at the Vatican.

Vatican City

Don’t be rigid; Holy Spirit is gift of God who surprises us, pope says

By CINDY WOODEN, Catholic News Service | Published May 18, 2017

VATICAN CITY (CNS)—God, who created the world, continues to work in it, surprising people and making some of them nervous, Pope Francis said.

The phrase “it’s always been done this way” reflects an attitude that “kills,” the pope said May 8 at his early morning Mass. “This kills freedom. It kills joy. It kills fidelity to the Holy Spirit, who always is at work, leading the church.”

In his homily during the Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, Pope Francis concentrated on the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, which recounts the heated debate in the early Christian community about Peter entering the homes of pagans, sharing the Gospel with them and baptizing them.

Peter is courageous, the pope said. “He was able to accept God’s surprise” and to move in a new direction under the guidance of the Holy Spirit while other members of the community “certainly were afraid of this novelty.”

“The Spirit is a gift of God, of this God our father who always surprises us,” the pope said. Because God is a living God, one who dwells with his people and moves their hearts and keeps the church going through time, “he always surprises us. And so, just as he had the creativity to make the world, he has the creativity to make new things each day. God surprises us.”

Like the reaction to St. Peter, though, some members of the community will claim that following the promptings of the Spirit are “a scandal,” the pope said. Resistance to the Holy Spirit often takes the form of “No. It’s always been done this way and it must be done this way. Don’t bring us these novelties, Peter, calm down, take a pill to calm your nerves.”

Of course, the pope said, it is possible that a new idea or way of doing things comes from “the spirit of the world or the spirit of the devil” and not from God. In response, the church must ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of wise discernment.

“The faith never changes,” the pope said. “But it is in motion, it grows and spreads.”

Christians need to ask for “the grace of discernment so they do not take the wrong path or fall into immobility, rigidity or a heart that is closed” to God’s surprises, he said.

In his homily during morning Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae on May 11, Pope Francis continued to talk about the work of the Holy Spirit.

He said faith is a journey guided by the Holy Spirit, who helps the church grow in understanding the sinful nature of once-accepted practices like slavery and the death penalty.

While people once even used religious reasons to justify practices such as slavery, the death penalty and “wars of religion,” over time the Holy Spirit has deepened the church’s understanding of the Gospel, the pope said May 11.

Slavery “is a mortal sin; today we say this. Back then, some would say that this could be done because these people did not have a soul!” he said. The number of people enslaved today is “even more, but at least we know that it is a mortal sin. The same goes for the death penalty; for a time, it was normal. Today, we say that the death penalty is inadmissible.”