VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Faith isn’t something decorative one adds to life, but is a commitment that involves making choices that may require sacrifice, Pope Francis said.
Faith “is not decorating your life with a bit of religion as if life were a cake that you decorate with cream,” the pope said Aug. 18 before reciting the Angelus with visitors in St. Peter’s Square.
Pope Francis’ Angelus address included an explanation of a passage from the day’s Gospel reading from Luke in which Jesus tells his disciples: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”
Jesus was telling his disciples that loving and serving God had to be the “basic criteria of life,” Pope Francis told thousands of people gathered under the midday sun to pray with him.
“Following Jesus means renouncing evil, selfishness and choosing goodness, truth and justice even when that requires sacrifice and renouncing our own interests.”
Living a truly Christian life can lead to division, even within families, the pope said. “But attention: It’s not Jesus who divides. He sets out the criteria: Live for oneself or for God and others, ask to be served or serve; obey one’s ego or obey God — it is in this sense that Jesus is a ‘sign of contradiction.'”
When Jesus told his disciples he had come to “set the world on fire,” the pope said, he was not authorizing the use of force to spread the faith. “Rather, it is the exact opposite: The true force of the Christian is the force of truth and love, which means renouncing the use of violence.”
“Faith and violence are incompatible,” he said.
At the same time, Pope Francis said, “faith and strength go together. The Christian is not violent, but is strong. And with what strength? That of meekness — the strength of meekness, the strength of love.”