On Wednesday, Pope Francis warned against making Jesus into the person we want him to be, and thus creating obstacles to a true relationship with Christ and his mercy.
“The admonition of Jesus is always present: even today man constructs images of God that prevent him from enjoying his real presence,” the Pope said during the general audience Sept. 7.
“Some carve out a ‘do it yourself’ faith that reduces God in the limited space of their own desires and their own beliefs. But this faith is not conversion to the Lord that is revealed, in fact, it prevents him from arousing our life and our conscience.”
In his catechesis, Pope Francis named several different ways in which people create false images of God, such as those who invoke his name in defense of their own interests, or in the interest of hatred and violence, or those who deny Christ’s divinity, considering him just a good ethical teacher and leader.
“For still others God is just a psychological refuge,” Francis said, “where he is reassurance in difficult times: it is a faith turned in on itself, impervious to the power of merciful love of Jesus which pushes brothers.”
Pope Francis also mentioned those who he said “stifle faith” by making it entirely about their personal, intimate relationship with Jesus while ignoring the missionary aspect of the Church, “capable of transforming the world and history.”
Continuing his theme of discussing mercy, Pope Francis spoke about the difference between the justice John the Baptist expected the Messiah to wield and the mercy which Jesus actually practiced, a mercy which was the manifestation of God’s justice.
Pointing to the Gospel of Matthew, the Pope said Jesus responded to John the Baptist’s question of whether or not he was the Messiah with, “Go and tell John what you hear and see.”
“The blind, the lame, the lepers, the deaf, regain their dignity and are no longer excluded for their disease, the dead return to life, while the poor have the good news,” Francis said. “And this becomes the summary action of Jesus, who in this way makes visible and tangible the act of God.”
“The message that the Church receives from this account of the life of Christ is very clear. God did not send his Son into the world to punish sinners, nor to destroy the wicked,” he continued. “They are instead addressed the invitation to conversion so that, seeing the signs of divine goodness, they can find their way back.”
The Pope concluded his catechesis by urging those present to not place themselves above the mercy of Christ by believing in a false image of the Messiah.
“We Christians believe in the God of Jesus Christ, and our desire is to grow in the living experience of the mystery of love,” he said. “We commit ourselves, therefore, to not place any obstacle in the way of the action of the merciful Father, but we ask the gift of a great faith to become ourselves signs and instruments of mercy.”