Faith can't grow without temptation, pope tells Rome priests

IMAGE: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME (CNS) — Faith is a continuing path of growth and
maturity that cannot progress without the presence of temptations, Pope Francis
told priests of the Diocese of Rome.

faith develops in “a man, in a priest” despite his flaws can be seen
in St. Peter, the pope said March 2 as he led a meditation with diocesan
and religious clergy.

“One thing is clear: Temptation is always present in the
life of Simon Peter and temptation is always present in our lives. Moreover,
without temptation, you cannot progress in faith. In the ‘Our Father,’ we ask
for the grace to not fall but
not to not be tempted,” he said.  

The meeting, held at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, was
delayed for roughly 45 minutes as Pope Francis heard the confessions of a dozen priests,
according to the Vatican press office.

Greeted with a warm applause by the priests, the pope said
that he would not read his entire meditation and instead focus on key aspects
of his talk, titled,
“The progress of faith in priestly life.”

Without a continual growth in faith, the pope said, priests
run the risk of remaining immature and living priestly life

“And we priests, if we do not have a mature faith
capable of generating faith in others — that is, fatherhood — we can do harm
and so much evil. But if faith grows, it does so much good,” the pope
said, departing from his prepared remarks.

Faith, he continued, must be nourished by three important
components: memory, rooted in the faith of the church and “the faith of
our fathers”;
hope, which sustains faith;
and “discernment of the present moment.”

These three components, however, hinge on a “fixed
point.” The pope gave the example of a basketball player who, with his
foot firmly “pinned to the ground,” moves to either protect the ball,
find a way to pass it or look for a path toward the basket.

“For us, that foot pinned to the ground, around which
we pivot, is the cross of Christ,” the pope said. “Faith — the
progress and growth of faith — is always based on the cross, on the scandal of
the cross.”

Memory, he explained, feeds and nourishes faith,
particularly the memory of the “covenant the Lord has made with us”
through parents and grandparents.

Speaking off-the-cuff, the pope recalled a retreat when he found it
difficult to be touched by the preacher’s meditation on death and the
final judgment.

At that moment, he said, “I remembered a writing my
grandmother had on her nightstand: ‘Be careful, God is watching you. Think that
you will die and you do not know when.’ And in that moment, I could pray and go
forward. It was (my) roots that opened the way. A Christian always progresses
from the root. Do not forget your roots.”

Pope Francis said that faith is also strengthened through
hope, which helps
priests to “find new things” from their past to encounter God in
those they are called to help.

“Faith is knowing how to see in the face of the poor
you meet today, the same Lord who will come to judge us according to the
protocol of Matthew 25, ‘Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of
mine, you did for me.'”

understand the past and sustain hope for the future, he added, discernment in
the present is important and it often involves taking a step back to see the
bigger picture.

Priests, however, often have the “insidious temptation”
of “sterile pessimism,” which seeks to resolve matters quickly and
often gives in to the “evil spirit of defeat.”

An example of a progression in faith through memory, hope
and discernment, he said, is
the apostle Peter, a man who is a “paradox” in that Jesus would
often extol the virtues of others while Peter was often reproached for his lack
of faith.

Peter’s faith, however, is “faith that is tested,”
and through that he has the mission of confirming the faith of the disciples
and the church today.

key moments in his life, the pope continued, Peter is strengthened in his
faith. Jesus “prays for him so that his weakness, and even his sin, is
transformed into a grace” for him and for all.

following the example of Peter, the pope said, “a priest or a
bishop who does not feel he is a sinner, who does not confess, who is closed in
himself, does not progress in faith.”

Pope Francis explained that the devil’s greatest temptation
was to instill in Peter the idea that he was “not worthy to be Jesus’
friend because he betrayed him.”

Although “the weight of our sins makes us move away
from the Lord,” the pope said the Lord is always faithful and
“confirms us in our shepherding, in leading the flock.”

“The Lord keeps moving forward and Peter’s faith is
full. And that sinner, who denied him, the Lord made him pope,” Pope Francis said. “That is
the Lord’s logic.”

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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