VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Sowing division in the church and in families is one of the devil’s favorite things and it goes directly against Jesus’ will for all his followers, Pope Francis said.
Jesus prays “for the unity of his people,” but he knows that “the spirit of the world” is a “spirit of division, war, envy, jealousy, including in families, in religious communities and in dioceses and the whole church; it’s a great temptation,” the pope said May 21 during his early morning Mass.
In his homily at the Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, Pope Francis said the devil’s main weapons for sowing division are gossiping and labeling others.
“Each person is how he or she is, but try to live in unity,” the pope said. “Has Jesus forgiven you? Forgive all others.”
The Gospel for the day, John 17:20-26, contains Jesus’ farewell prayer for his disciples, including his prayer that his followers would be one.
There is no such thing as a church held together with “glue,” the pope said. Rather, unity is “a grace from God” and the result of a “struggle” on earth. “We must give the Spirit space to transform us into one, like the Father and the Son are one.”
“This is a challenge for all Christians: to not allow room for division among us, to not let the spirit of division, the father of lies, enter into us,” he said. “Always seek unity.”
Pope Francis urged everyone to read frequently the day’s passage from the Gospel of St. John. It begins, “Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: ‘I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.'”
“We probably haven’t paid enough attention to these words,” the pope said. Jesus is not only praying for his disciples, those who knew him, “Jesus prayed for me!”
Realizing that all believers are included in his prayer should give people confidence and hope, the pope said.
He urged people not only to read the passage, but to try to imagine Jesus standing before the Father in heaven praying for them right now.
“This is how it is. He prays for us. He prays for me,” the pope said. “And what does the Father see? The wounds. The price. The price Jesus paid for us. Jesus prays for me with his wounds, with his wounded heart, and he continues to do so.”