This week we will continue our journey together as we reflect on Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation: ‘Gaudete Et Exsultate’ or ‘Rejoice and be Glad’. The Pope’s reflection in the second chapter of the exhortation reveals two reoccurring false forms of holiness. These enemies of holiness, or heresies, began in the early Church and continue today in different forms. Since a heresy is a, ‘willful and persistent adherence to error in matters of faith’ by baptized people in the Catholic faith; Pope Francis speaks to us about the ancient heresies of Gnosticism and pelagianism. These two false tendencies find difficulty with the confession of our Christian faith, which is that Jesus Christ is the only Savior of each person, and humanity as a whole. Gnosticism puts forth a model of salvation that is exclusively interior that depends on the intellectual perfection of the person regarding faith and the information and knowledge they possess. They judge others, based on how they understand the intricacy, and simplicity of Catholic Doctrine. They think that their knowledge, and ideas about the truth are perfect, and that anyone who does not know as much as they do, or think like they think, are ignorant. They have an answer for every question and situation leaving no room for God’s grace. What Gnostics attributed to the intellect, pelagianism attributes to personal effort or exertion. They trust only themselves and with this power they feel superior to others because of their adherence to certain rules or to a specific Catholic style. This lack of humility does not allow room for the power of God’s grace because this lacks the prayerful acknowledgement of our faults and limitations. The Church has taught us that charity alone makes growth, in a life of grace possible.
Therefore, when Christians justify themselves to their own abilities, they leave very little room to love one another, thus reducing our faith to a religion of servitude.
Pope Francis asks all of us to prayerfully reflect and discern whether we have a leaning to any of these tendencies. He asks us to serve the defenseless, the vulnerable and those in need; remembering that what endures and has lasting value in God’s eyes is our love for God and our neighbor; the very image of God himself.