“The times are changing and we, Christians, must change continually”, in freedom and in the truth of faith. These are the words the Pope pronounced during the homily of morning Mass, celebrated in Santa Marta. Francis reflected on discernment that the Church must do as it looks at the “signs of the times”, without giving in to the comfort of conformity, but drawing inspiration from prayer. “Times do what they have to: they are changing. Christians must do what Christ wants: to evaluate the times and change along with them while holding fast to the truth of the Gospel. What is not allowed is silent conformism which, in fact, stays still.
On the ambo, the lectionary is opened with a passage from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Saint Paul, says Francis, preaches “with so much force about freedom that saved us from sin”. Then follows the passage from the Gospel in which Jesus talks about the “signs of the times” and calls hypocrites those who understand them, but do not do the same with the time of the Son of Man. God created us free and “to have this freedom, we must open ourselves to the power of the Spirit. We have this freedom to judge what is happening outside of us. But in order to judge, we must know what is happening outside of us. And how can we do this? How can we do this thing the Church refers to as ‘to know the signs of the times’? Times are changing. It is a proof of Christian wisdom to recognize these changes, learn about the different times and know the signs of the times. What means one thing or another. And we must do so without fear, in freedom”.
Francis recognizes that it is not “easy”, there are too many external conditions which make pressure on the Christian and this pressure leads many of us to a more comfortable not doing anything: “This is what we usually do: we conform, and appease ourselves with ‘I heard it somewhere, people say, I read … ‘. Thus we are cosy … But what is truth? What is the message the Lord wants to offer me with the sign of the times? To understand the signs of the times, first of all you need silence; you need to be quiet and observe. Then, think to yourself. An example: Why are there so many wars now? Why did something happen? And pray … silence, reflection, and prayer. Only then can we understand the signs of the times and what Jesus wants to tell us”.
To comprehend the signs of the times is not an exclusive work of a cultural elite. Jesus does not say “look how doctors do it, look how intellectuals do it. Jesus – says Francesco – speaks to peasants who, in their simplicity, are able to distinguish the seed of discord. The times are changing and we, Christians, must change continually. We have to change, firm in our faith in Jesus Christ, firm in the truth of the Gospel, but our attitude has to move continuously according to the signs of the times. We are free. We are free due to the gift of freedom Jesus Christ gave us. But our job is to look at what happens within us, to discern our feelings, our thoughts; as well as what happens around us and discern the signs of the times. With silence, with reflection and prayer”.