Christians must avoid the temptation to conform to the world, Pope Francis cautioned Aug. 31, stressing that they should instead allow their faith to transform the world around them.
“Christians live in the world, fully integrated into the social and cultural reality of our time, and rightly so,” the Pope said in his reflection at the Sunday Angelus. However, “this carries with it the risk that we might become 'worldly', that 'the salt might lose its flavor',” as the Gospel of Matthew warns.
Pope Francis spoke to those gathered in the Vatican's St. Peter's Square at noon. As he does each week, the Holy Father offered a reflection on the Sunday Gospel before reciting the Angelus.
He pointed to the passage in the Gospel of Matthew in which Jesus predicts his coming passion, death and resurrection.
At this “critical moment” in Scripture, “the apparent contrast between Jesus' way of thinking and that of the disciples emerges,” he said, pointing to Peter's rebuke of Jesus.
“Jesus, in turn, severely rebukes Peter, because he does not think 'according to God, but according to men', and plays – without realizing it – the part of Satan, the tempter.”
The Pope explained that we should learn from this example, heeding the words of St. Paul, who says, “Be not conformed to this world; but be reformed in the newness of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God.”
Rather than becoming worldly, we should change the world, he said.
“When the power of the Gospel remains alive in Christians, it can transform 'mankind's criteria of judgment, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life, which are in contrast with the Word of God and the plan of salvation',” he exhorted, citing the 1975 apostolic exhortation of Pope Paul VI, Evangelii nuntiandi.
After the Angelus, Pope Francis greeted various groups of pilgrims present in the square.
Welcoming participants in an international gathering of Catholic lawmakers, he encouraged them “to live the delicate role of representatives of the people in conformity with Gospel values.”
He also noted that Monday marks a Day for the Safeguarding of Creation, sponsored by the Italian Bishops' Conference.
“The theme this year is very important - Educating to care for creation, for the health of our country and our city,” the Pope remarked.
“I hope that it will strengthen the commitment of all institutions, associations and citizens so as to safeguard the life and health of people also respect the environment and nature.”