VATICAN CITY: “The Christian is a man or a woman who knows to keep watch over his or her heart,” the Holy Father observed in his homily on January 7 at Casa Santa Marta.
The Pope reflected on the importance of vigilance in discerning what comes from God.
Speaking on the first reading from the First Letter of John, the Holy Father began by referring to John’s call of remaining in the Lord as a “counsel for life” that allows us to understand what goes on in one’s heart.
“It is necessary to know the discernment of spirits, to discern whether something helps us remain in the Lord or takes us away from Him,” he said. “Our heart always has desires, has cravings, has thoughts. But are these from the Lord or do some of these things take us away from the Lord?”
The Holy Father echoed the Apostle John’s invitation to test the spirits, that which think and desire.
“Test the spirits to see if they really come from God, because many false prophets have come into the world. Prophets or prophesies or suggestions: ‘I want to do this!’ But this does not bring you to the Lord, it leads you away from Him,” he said.
“That’s why vigilance is necessary. The Christian is a man or a woman who knows to keep watch over his or her heart. And many times our heart, and with so many things that come and go, seems 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.”
In order to discern whether something is from Christ or the Antichrist, the Holy Father stated that John’s instruction, to recognise that the Word was made flesh, was to recognise the path taken by Christ which led to his death on the Cross.
“That is the path of Jesus Christ: abasement, humility, humiliation as well. If a thought, if a desire takes you along the road of humility and abasement, of service to others, it is from Jesus,” the Pope said.
“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.”
The temptations of Christ in the desert, the Holy Father continued, were examples of proposals made by the Devil in order to make Him stray from the path of service, humility and charity.
Pope Francis invited the faithful to the follow the Apostle’s exhortation in testing what comes to one’s heart in discerning what comes and what doesn’t come from God.
“Let us think of this, and let us not 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,” he said.
“And may the Apostle John 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.”