Hardened hearts can turn believers into atheists, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Mark R. Cristino, EPA

By Junno Arocho Esteves

listening to God’s voice can distance Christians from him and lead them instead to seek
solace in worldly idols that offer only doubt and confusion, Pope Francis said.

When Catholics are
“deaf to the word of God,” their hearts are hardened, and “they
lose the meaning of faithfulness,” the pope said March 23 in his homily
during morning Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae.

The pope began his homily by reflecting on the day’s first
reading from the prophet Jeremiah in which God laments the unfaithfulness of
his people who “walked in the hardness of their evil hearts and turned
their backs, not their faces, to me.”

“Not listening to and turning our backs — which
hardens our heart — takes us on that path of unfaithfulness,” the pope

In the reading,
“the Lord says: ‘Faithfulness has disappeared,’ and we become unfaithful
Catholics, pagan Catholics and, even worse, atheist Catholics” without the necessary reference to
the love of the living God, the pope said.

Instead of being full of
clarity, he continued, Christians on this path of unfaithfulness are filled
with confusion, not knowing where God is and confusing “God with the

Those who said Jesus expelled
demons “by the power of Beelzebul,
the prince of demons” in the day’s Gospel reading from St. Luke, the pope
added, are an example of the last step along this path.

“This is blasphemy.
Blasphemy is the final word of this path that begins with not listening, which hardens the
heart” and “brings confusion; it makes you forget faithfulness and in
the end, you blaspheme.”

Pope Francis said Christians
must ask themselves whether they listen to the word of God or have “lost
faithfulness to the Lord and live with the idols that offer me the worldliness
of every day.”

“Today is a day for
listening. ‘Listen today to the voice of the Lord’ we prayed.” the pope
said. “‘Do not harden your heart.’ Let us ask for this grace: the grace to
listen so that our heart does not harden.”

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