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 CNS Story:

POPE-CRITICS Dec-13-2013 (340 words) xxxi

Constant criticism of preachers is usually sign of fear, pope says

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians who find something to criticize in every preacher they ever hear are not simply fussy, Pope Francis said, they usually are afraid.

"They are scandalized that God speaks through human beings who have limits, human sinners. And they are even more scandalized that God speaks to us and saves us through a man who says he is the son of God, but ends up dying like a criminal," the pope said Dec. 13 at his early morning Mass.

According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis focused his homily on the day's Gospel reading from St. Matthew where Jesus describes many of his contemporaries as being like spoiled children and says they criticize St. John the Baptist because he didn't eat or drink, while they criticize Jesus because he did.

"The people of his time preferred to take refuge in a very elaborate religion: for the Pharisees, it was moral precepts; for the Sadducees, political compromise; for the Zealots, social revolution; and for the Essenes, gnostic spirituality," the pope said. "They had very clean, very organized systems."

However, he said, they didn't want preachers and they definitely didn't want prophets.

"Jesus reminds them: 'Your fathers did the same with the prophets,'" the pope said. "The people of God have a kind of allergy to preachers of the word. They persecuted and even killed the prophets."

The people "preferred to be caged up" with their own precepts or plans, he said. And there are Christians today who are equally "caged up, these sad Christians."

"They are afraid of the freedom of the Holy Spirit, who comes through preaching," he said. Through preaching the Holy Spirit "admonishes you, teaches you, may even slap you, but it is precisely what makes the church grow."

Jesus' description of the "children who are afraid to dance, to cry, who are afraid of everything and want security in everything makes me think of those sad Christians who always criticize those who preach the truth because they are afraid to open the door to the Holy Spirit."

END


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