VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Don’t live the faith as if it were a “nonstop funeral,” Pope Francis said.
Because Jesus isn’t “up there,” faraway, but is close by, don’t be afraid of reaching out to him and experiencing his joy, the pope said April 24 during his homily at Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives.
Some Christians are afraid of basking in Christ’s light and joy, preferring to dwell like bats in the darkness, frightened of believing Christ is by their side, he said.
Jesus wants to bring humanity the “joy of the resurrection, the joy of his presence,” he said.
The pope’s homily reflected on the day’s reading from the Gospel of St. Luke (24:35-48), in which the risen Christ appears before the disciples, who react “startled and terrified,” thinking they are seeing a ghost. Jesus invites them to touch him, overcome their fears and believe he is really alive and in their midst.
The disciples’ fear reflects “an illness” affecting some Christians today, the pope said, according to a report by Vatican Radio.
“We’re afraid of joy. It’s better thinking: ‘Yeah, yeah, God exists, but he’s up there; Jesus is risen, he’s there’ (at) a bit of distance,” he said.
“We’re afraid of Jesus’ closeness,” which is a source of Christian joy, he said.
This fear explains why there are “so many ‘funeral Christians,’ right? Whose life seems like a nonstop funeral. They prefer sadness and not joy. They get around more easily in the dark, not in the light of joy,” like nocturnal creatures, who only come out and see at night.
“There are ‘bat Christians’ who prefer darkness over the light of the Lord’s presence,” who are afraid of joy, afraid of believing Christ is near, he said.
But with his resurrection, Jesus “brings us joy, the joy of being Christian, the joy of following him closely, the joy of taking the path of the beatitudes, the joy of being with him.”
Pope Francis cautioned people against being “defeated” by the cross, thinking everything ended there, that Jesus went his own way and is far away in heaven.
“Many times we are troubled when this joy comes to us, or full of fear, or we think we’re seeing a ghost, or we think that Jesus is just about how to behave: ‘Well, we’re Christians and we have to do it this way,'” he said.
Instead, Christian life must be “a dialogue with Jesus because — this is true — Jesus is always with us, he is always near our problems, our difficulties and our good works.”
He asked people to pray for God’s grace to not be afraid of joy, and that God help them — like he helped the disciples — to open their minds to understand the Scriptures; “to let us understand that he is a living reality; that he has a body; that he is with us; that he accompanies us; and that he is victorious.”