When Pope Francis said Mass this morning for Vatican bank employees, some might have expected a homily on financial ethics.
Instead, he delivered a brief and insightful reflection on the strength of baptism. Essentially, the pope argued that unless lay Catholics are willing to courageously live and proclaim their faith, the church risks turning into a “babysitter” for sleeping children.
Pope Francis was speaking to the mostly lay employees of the Vatican bank in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where his morning Masses have become daily teaching moments.
He referred to the day’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles on the evangelizing efforts of the earliest Christians, who traveled from place to place proclaiming the Gospel.
“They were a simple faithful, baptized just a year or so before – but they had the courage to go and proclaim,” he said.
“I think of us, the baptized: do we really have this strength – and I wonder – do we really believe in this? Is baptism enough? Is it sufficient for evangelization? Or do we rather ‘hope’ that the priest should speak, that the bishop might speak … and what of us? Then, the grace of baptism is somewhat closed, and we are locked in our thoughts, in our concerns. Or sometimes think: ‘No, we are Christians, I was baptized, I made Confirmation, First Communion … I have my identity card all right. And now, go to sleep quietly, you are a Christian.’ But where is this power of the Spirit that carries us forward?”
The pope said Christians today need to “be faithful to the Spirit, to proclaim Jesus with our lives, through our witness and our words.”
“When we do this, the church becomes a mother church that produces children…. But when we do not, the church is not the mother, but the babysitter, that takes care of the baby – to put the baby to sleep. It is a church dormant. Let us reflect on our baptism, on the responsibility of our baptism.”
This was a favorite theme of Pope Francis when he was an archbishop in Buenos Aires, and I think we can expect to hear more on the topic in coming weeks and months.
In a revealing interview in 2011 with the news agency AICA, then-Cardinal Bergoglio was asked about the Catholic laity in Argentina, and he answered with these words:
“We priests tend to clericalize the laity.We do not realize it, but it is as if we infect them with our own disease.And the laity — not all, but many — ask us on their knees to clericalize them, because it is more comfortable to be an altar server than the protagonist of a lay path. We cannot fall into that trap —it is a sinful complicity.”