VATICAN CITY (CNS) — God’s law is about love for God and for others, not cold, abstract doctrine, Pope Francis said at a morning Mass.
“It’s sad to be a believer without joy and there is no joy when there is no faith, when there is no hope, when there is no law, but only rules and cold doctrine,” he said at the Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae March 26.
“The joy of faith, the joy of the Gospel is the touchstone of a person’s faith. Without joy, that person is not a true believer,” he said, according to Vatican Radio.
In his homily, the pope pointed to Abraham as a model of faith, hope and joy in God’s covenant. But such joy was absent in the doctors of the law described in the day’s Gospel reading; they threw stones at Jesus after he told them how Abraham “rejoiced to see my day.”
“These doctors of the law didn’t understand,” Pope Francis said. “They didn’t understand the joy of the promise; they didn’t understand the joy of hope; they didn’t understand the joy of the covenant.”
The doctors of the law “didn’t know how to rejoice because they had lost the sense of joy that only comes from faith,” he said. Not only did they lack faith, “they had lost the law. Because at the heart of the law is love — love for God and for one’s neighbor.”
“They only had a system of clear-cut doctrines,” he said.
As “men without faith, without law and attached to doctrine,” they lived in a world that was “abstract, a world without love, a world without faith, a world without hope, a world without trust, a world without God. And this is why they could not rejoice,” the pope said. “Their hearts had petrified.”
He asked that people pray for “the grace to be jubilant in the hope” of knowing and encountering Jesus and for the “grace of joy.”
Pope Francis began the day’s Mass with a prayer to St. Teresa of Avila, asking for her intercession in the cause for world peace.
After lighting a candle, he prayed that “the fire of God’s love may conquer the blaze of war and violence that afflict humanity, and that dialogue may prevail over armed conflict everywhere.”
His prayer was part of a worldwide initiative sponsored by the Order of Discalced Carmelites to get people of all denominations and faiths to offer an hour of prayer for peace March 26.
The prayer initiative was the order’s “birthday gift” to their foundress, St. Teresa, in anticipation of the 500th anniversary of her birth March 28; a series of celebrations began on her feast day Oct. 15.
St. Teresa of Avila was a 16th-century mystic, co-founder of the Discalced Carmelites and doctor of the church.