Photo: Pope Francis gives a blessing as he leads the Angelus from a window in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Aug. 18. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)
Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) – During his Sunday Angelus message, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of a deep faith that is fixed on Jesus, warning against a religious life that is only superficial.
Faith “is not some decorative or ornamental thing,” said Pope Francis to cheering crowds in St. Peter’s Square Aug. 18.
“To live the faith is not to decorate life with a little religion, like a cake is decorated with a little frosting. No! It’s not that. Faith entails choosing God as a fundamental criterion of life, and God is neither meaningless nor neutral. God is love!” he said.
The Pope acknowledged that Jesus’ remarks in Sunday’s Gospel are challenging.
“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Do you think that I came to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, division’,” the Pope cited.
He said this verse merits explanation to prevent misunderstanding.
Jesus does not “wish to divide mankind against itself,” said the Pope. “On the contrary, Jesus is our peace and our reconciliation.”
The Pope said this peace is not “neutrality” or “compromise at all costs.”
“To follow Jesus requires renunciation of evil, of egoism, and choosing good, truth, justice. It also requires sacrifice and a renunciation of self-interest,” he said.
Pope Francis said Jesus does not divide. Rather, he establishes criteria: “live for self, or live for God and others; be served, or serve; obey self, or obey God.”
“And so in this sense Jesus is ‘a sign of contradiction’,” the pope said. “The true strength of Christianity is the strength of faith, of love, that involves the renunciation of all violence.”
“Faith and violence are incompatible,” Pope Francis repeated twice for emphasis. “The Christian is not violent, but he is strong with the force of love.”
The Pope then led the crowds in the Angelus prayer, remembering especially the violent political unrest in Egypt and the recent deadly ferry disaster in the Philippines.
“Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us. All together, let us pray, ‘Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us.’”
Before greeting the crowds, Pope Francis took a moment to remind listeners of his central message.
“Remember this: follow Jesus: no one else. To follow Jesus means to be involved, because faith is not something decorative. It is the strength of the soul!”