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POPE’S MESSAGE | Idolatry empties lives, ruins hearts, which only Christ can revive

VATICAN CITY — Every heart enslaved by false idols and evil desires needs a “transplant” with a heart filled with love, joy, goodness, hope and generosity, Pope Francis said.

“How does this ‘heart transplant’ happen? From an old heart to a new heart? Through the gift of new desires,” the pope said Nov. 28 at his weekly general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall.

The new desires are seeds planted by the Holy Spirit, growing into a thirst for a new life, like Christ’s, that is hopeful, grateful, free, blessed, generous and sincere, he said.

The pope’s catechesis before the start of Advent Dec. 2, was the last of his series of talks on the Ten Commandments.

The commandments, he said, should not be seen as a series of rules, but rather as a process of “benediction and liberation” that leads to a true, authentic life, finding “rest” and salvation in God.

God, he said, “asks for nothing before He has given so much more” first.

“He invites us to be obedient in order to free us from the deception of idolatries that have so much power over us. In fact, seeking self-fulfillment in the idols of this world empties us and enslaves us while what gives us stature and substance” is a relationship with God, the pope said.

God calls people to “the beauty of fidelity, generosity and authenticity,” he said, but how does one get there? “We need a new heart, in which the Holy Spirit dwells,” the pope said.

This new heart grows from desires that are “sown in us by God’s grace, particularly through the Ten Commandments,” which Jesus brought to fulfillment.

“The Lord Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it, to make it grow” from being a list of rules and prohibitions to becoming new life, the flesh of Christ Himself, “who loves us, seeks us, forgives us, consoles us,” leading people back to God the Father after losing their way through sin and disobedience, he said.

Through Christ, the “negative” shall nots of the commandments are transformed into positive attitudes and actions, such as love and making room for others in one’s heart, Pope Francis said.

By opening one’s heart to God, the Holy Spirit will come and generate new life there, planting seeds of hope, faith and love, helping people conform their hearts ever closer to Christ’s.

“In Christ and only in Him, the Ten Commandments stop being condemnation and become the authentic truth of human life, that is, the desire for love, a desire for the good, to do the good, a desire for joy, peace, magnanimity, benevolence, kindness, fidelity, meekness, self-control.”

Kingdom based on love, not power, brings true peace

VATICAN CITY — Jesus showed His authority as king not through the power of weaponry, violence or deceit but by the power of His love for the world through His death on the cross, Pope Francis said.

Kingdoms founded “on the power of arms and on abuses of power” are frail and often collapse while God’s kingdom is founded on love that gives “peace, freedom and fullness of life to those who accept it,” the pope said Nov. 25 at his Sunday Angelus address.

“This is the divine truth which is ultimately the essential message of the Gospel: ‘God is love’ and He wants to establish in the world His kingdom of love, justice and peace,” he said.

In his address, the pope reflected on the Solemnity of Christ the King. The feast, he said, not only marks the end of the liturgical year but also serves as a reminder that in creation, all life does not advance “by chance but proceeds toward a final goal: the definitive manifestation of Christ, Lord of history and of all creation.”

He also reflected on the day’s Gospel reading from St. John, in which Jesus tells Pontius Pilate that His “kingdom does not belong to this world.”

Jesus, the pope explained, has no political aspirations and the true power is the power of love “by bearing witness to the truth” of God’s infinite love for all men and women.

“We all want peace, we all want freedom and we want fullness,” the pope said. “And how do we (obtain) it? Let the love of God, the kingdom of God, the love of Jesus take root in your heart and you will have peace, freedom and fullness.”

— Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service

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