Vatican City, May 2, 2017 / 04:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Moralists without empathy are unable to see how God transforms “hearts of stone” into real hearts of flesh – and it’s a problem that harms the Christian community, Pope Francis said.
“This causes suffering in the Church. The closed hearts, the hearts of stone, the hearts which do not want to be open, do not want to hear, the hearts which only know the language of condemnation,” the Pope said during his Tuesday morning homily at Casa Santa Maria.
He reflected on the hardness of heart which lead to the death of Saint Stephen, as depicted in the day’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles at Mass.
The temple authorities who stoned St. Stephen are what Pope Francis called “those who condemn all who are outside the law.” He said Stephen had called them “uncircumcised of heart” because they lacked an ability to understand the word of God.
Although the apostles were called foolish by Christ on the walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus, the Pope clarified that they were blinded by misunderstanding and fear but capable of hearing the truth and being corrected.
“When Jesus rebuked them, they let his words enter them and their hearts burned within them, while those who stoned Stephen were furious and did not want to listen!”
Pope Francis referred to the Lord’s “beautiful promise” to the Prophet Ezekiel: “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”
A tender and responsive heart understands correction and how to hear. Closed hearts, however, don’t know how to listen, they only “know how to condemn, they do not know how to say ‘Explain it to me, why do you say this? Why this? Explain it to me.”
He said these stony hearts are not able to handle Christ’s words of rebuke and are the same hearts which led to the deaths of Saint Stephen and the prophets in the Old Testament.
“There was no place in their hearts for the Holy Spirit,” Pope Francis said, comparing them to Stephen who “was filled with the Holy Spirit, he had understood everything, he was a witness to the obedience of the word made flesh, and this was done by the Holy Spirit.”
Reflecting on the Gospel when the Pharisees propose to stone the adulteress, he told those present to “look inside yourself” to see the sins which Christ makes clearer.
“We look at the tenderness of Jesus, the witness of obedience, that great witness, Jesus, who has given life, which makes us look for the tenderness of God, confronting us, our sins, our weaknesses.”
The fear, misunderstanding, and foolishness of the apostles on the way to Emmaus represent us with our “many doubts, many sins” the Pope said. However, during the temptation to pull away from the cross, he said we should “make space to hear Jesus, who makes our hearts burn.”
Pope Francis urged the faithful to “enter this dialogue and let us call for the grace of the Lord which softens the rigid hearts of those people who are always closed in the law and condemn all who are outside the law.”