By Justin McLellan, Catholic News Service
[Vatican City – CNS) — Christians should not use the Gospel to accuse others or speak ill of their brothers and sisters, but instead, draw people to its message by exemplifying it in their lives, Pope Francis said.
“In a globalized but fragmented, hurried world devoted to consumerism, in contexts where family and social roots sometimes appear to dissolve, there is no need for finger-pointing Christians, but for passionate witnesses that radiate the Gospel,” he told participants in the fifth World Congress of Benedictine Oblates at the Vatican Sept. 15, 2023.
“This is always the temptation, to go from ‘Christian witnesses’ to ‘Christian accusers,'” Pope Francis said. “There is only one accuser: the devil; let us not assume the role of the devil, let us assume the role of Jesus.”
The congress, typically held every four years, is an international gathering of Benedictine oblates — lay or consecrated people who commit themselves to living according to the monastic “Rule of St Benedict” through prayer and service.
Recalling the life and teachings of the 5th-century Italian saint, who established the rules for monasticism adopted by generations of Christian monks, Pope Francis said those inspired by St. Benedict are called to be “yeast in dough” and transform the contexts they live in through their meekness and compassion.
He encouraged the participants to always remain “seekers of God” by contemplating creation, everyday events, the people they encounter and by “living your work as prayer, to the point of making the very means of your work into instruments of blessing.”
Pope Francis noted the historical role of monasticism in the West, which, through its “evangelical model of life marked by prayer and work,” led to the “peaceful conversion and integration of numerous populations” in pre-medieval societies. “All this zeal is born from a passion for the Gospel,” he said.
Pope Francis also reflected on the Benedictine call to hospitality, to which St. Benedict dedicates an entire chapter in his book on monastic life.
“As oblates, your big monastery is the world, the city, the workplace,” he told the participants, “and there you are called to be models of welcome by respecting who knocks on your door and giving preference to the poor.”
“This is what welcoming is. The temptation is to close yourself, and today in our society, in our culture — even Christian culture — one way of closing yourself is gossip, which ‘dirties’ others,” Pope Francis said. “Sometimes it seems that our society is slowly suffocating in locked vaults of selfishness, in individualism and indifference, and gossip closes us in this.”
The pope told the participants, “If you reform your life to not speak badly about others, you will keep the door open to your cause for canonization!”
© OSV News / Our Sunday Visitor, Inc. 2023 – from CNS Vatican bureau, used with permission