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Pope Francis: ‘The Christian must be open to the word of God and to the service of others’

Pope Francis speaks at his general audience Dec. 13, 2023, in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Dec 13, 2023 / 09:38 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday closed his catechetical series on apostolic zeal, delivered during his recent general audiences, by noting that the attitude of being open is a duty for every Christian and a precondition for authentically announcing the Gospel. 

“The Christian must be open to the Word of God and to the service of others,” the pope said during the audience. He went on to juxtapose this notion of openness with a mentality of “closure,” noting that the latter contradicts the central message of the Gospel and allows for people to fall into ideological ways of thinking. 

Pope Francis greets pilgrims at his general audience Dec. 13, 2023, in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican. Credit: Elizabeth Alva/EWTN

“Closed Christians always end up badly, because they are not Christians, they are ideologues, ideologues of closure,” the pope said.

The pope highlighted this openness by pointing to the Gospel of Mark when Jesus performs the miracle of healing a deaf-mute man, using “the decisive word” of “effatà,” which the Holy Father noted means “open up” in Aramaic.

Pope Francis greets pilgrims at his general audience Dec. 13, 2023, in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

“And for this reason, this effatà, this ‘open up,’ is an invitation to all of us to open up,” he continued. 

While acknowledging the condition of “physical deafness,” the pope noted that in the biblical context it assumes a metaphorical character, conveying that “one who is deaf to the word of God is mute, who does not communicate the word of God.” 

Pope Francis blesses a pregnant women during his Dec. 13, 2023, general audience in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

Pointing out that it is Jesus “who is capable of opening his ears and mouth,” the pope noted that this mandate to be open in evangelizing comes for all Christians at the moment of baptism when the priest, “touching the ears and lips of the baptized person,” says: “May the Lord Jesus, who made the deaf hear and the mute speak, grant you to quickly listen to his word and profess your faith.” 

“We too, who have received the effatà of the Spirit in baptism, are called to open ourselves. ‘Open yourself,’ says Jesus to every believer and to his Church: Open yourself because the message of the Gospel needs you to be witnessed and announced,” Francis continued. 

Pilgrims cheer during Pope Francis’ general audience on Dec. 13, 2023, in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican. Credit: Elizabeth Alva/EWTN

The Holy Father closed his remarks by suggesting that before becoming a witness to the Gospel, it is critical to have a moment of reflection and ask ourselves a series of key questions. 

“Do I really love the Lord, to the point of wanting to announce him? Do I want to become his witness or am I content with being his disciple? Do I take the people I meet to heart, do I bring them to Jesus in prayer? Do I want to do something so that the joy of the Gospel, which has transformed my life, makes their lives more beautiful?” 

Pope Francis receives gifts from young people at his general audience on Dec. 13, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media

During his greeting to the Italian pilgrims gathered for the audience, Pope Francis recalled that Dec. 13 is the feast day of St. Lucy, a virgin and martyr of Syracuse, Sicily, who was martyred in the fourth century during the Christian persecutions of the Roman Emperor Diocletian.  

“In some areas of Italy and Europe it is customary to exchange gifts for the upcoming Christmas on this occasion,” the pope said. “I would like to invite all of you to exchange the gift of friendship and Christian testimony — which is a beautiful gift.” 

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