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POPE’S MESSAGE | Pray with courage, conviction, not mindlessly like a parrot

VATICAN CITY — Prayer is a "high stakes" endeavor, requiring courage, perseverance and patience, Pope Francis said.

Courage is needed to stick one's neck out and "challenge the Lord," pursuing and confronting Him with one's appeals, the pope said Jan. 12 in the homily at Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"If prayer isn't courageous, it isn't Christian," he said.

The pope reflected on two Gospel readings from St. Mark — one describing Jesus' healing of a leper and another recounting His healing of a paralytic. The leper challenged Jesus, begging Him on his knees, "If you wish, you can make me clean." Meanwhile, the paralytic and the four men carrying him refused to let the huge crowd prevent him from seeing the Lord, so they broke through the roof and lowered the man down to Jesus.

In both cases, the pope said, Jesus saw the great faith, courage and persistence in the people asking Him for healing.

"Always, when we draw near to the Lord to ask Him something, you must start with and (ask) with faith," even challenging Him like the leper, he said.

The other role model for prayer, he said, is the paralytic, who was someone in great need and who faced many difficulties, and yet he never gave up because "where there is a will, there is always a way."

"So often you need patience and to know how to wait over time and not give up, to always go forward," Pope Francis said.

It's necessary to have "courage to fight to get to the Lord, courage to have faith from the start, 'If you wish, you can heal me. If you wish, I believe.'"

These Gospel readings should prompt people to reflect on how they pray, he said. Do people pray like "parrots," echoing words with no interest or care in what one is asking or do people "beg the Lord to help us (in) our little faith" and keep at it no matter the difficulties, he asked.

Courage is needed to "throw one's hat in the ring," he said, even if people do not get what they ask for right away because prayer is a "high-stakes game." 

Pope: Pastors who lead double lives wound the Church

VATICAN CITY — Pastors who preach one thing and do another are wounded and harm the Church, Pope Francis said.

Like the scribes and Pharisees of old, pastors end up leading a double life when they detach themselves from God and His people, the pope said in the homily Jan. 9 during morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"Jesus is clear in this: 'Do what they say' — they speak the truth — 'but not what they do,'" the pope said. "It is awful to see pastors with double lives: It is a wound in the Church."

The pope reflected on the day's Gospel reading from St. Mark in which Jesus astonishes the crowd by His preaching because He taught "them as one having authority and not as the scribes."

That same authority, the pope explained, is awakened in today's pastors when they are "close to God in prayer and close to the people."

However, those who are detached from God and the people are "sick pastors who have lost their authority" and are incapable of preaching salvation to others, Pope Francis said.

"Jesus is very firm with them," the pope said. "He not only tells the people to listen to them but not to do what they do, but what does He say to (the scribes)? He calls them 'whitened sepulchers' — beautiful in doctrine on the outside but inside, putrid. This is what happens to the pastor who is not close to God in prayer and with the people in compassion."

Commenting on the day's first reading, in which Eli gives a prophetic word of comfort to Hannah despite his own failures as a father and high priest, the pope said there is still hope for pastors who have their lives detached from God and from the people.

For Eli, "it was enough to look, to come close to a woman, to listen to her and awaken the authority to bless her and prophesy," he said.

"Authority is a gift from God; it comes only from Him," Pope Francis said. "If a pastor loses it, at least do not lose hope like Eli. There is always time to be close and awaken this authority and prophecy."

— Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service 

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