Pope Francis: Cultivate ‘the inner life’ rather than appearance and image

November 14, 2023 - 10:30 AM
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Pope Francis leads Regina Caeli prayer from his window at the Vatican, April 10, 2023. (Vatican Media/­Handout via Reuters)

VATICAN — Pope Francis reflected on Sunday’s Gospel message, urging the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square to cultivate the interior life and worry less about making a good impression.

Speaking in his Angelus address on Nov. 12, the pope asked the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square to consider, “How is the oil of my soul: do I nourish it and keep it well?”

The pope turned to the parable of the 10 virgins who are awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom to the wedding feast. Five of them were wise and had extra lamp oil to provide light until he arrived, but five were foolish, having brought no extra oil.

The difference between those who prepared their lamps with oil and those who did not is the difference between “goodwill” and “preparation” the Holy Father said. In this way, it reminds us of our own interior life.

“And what is the characteristic of the oil? That it cannot be seen: it is inside the lamps, it is not conspicuous, but without it, the lamps give no light,” said the pope.

The pope also warned that today there are many obstacles to having a genuine moment of inward reflection.

“Let us look at ourselves, and we will see that our life runs the same risk: Today we are very careful about our appearance, the important thing is to take good care of one’s image and make a good impression in front of others.”

“It is the stewardship of the inner life. This means knowing how to stop and listen to one’s heart, to keep watch over one’s own thoughts and feelings,” said the pope.

To engage in the inner reflection and contemplation necessary for a healthy spiritual life requires more than the willingness to listen, he said. “It means knowing how to make room for silence, so as to be capable of listening,” which, he said, often entails making sacrifices.

During the appeal, the pope called attention to the grave situation in Sudan. Conflict broke out in the county between two rival factions, the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces in April 2023. The fighting, which has left over 10,000 dead, has been concentrated in the capital city of Khartoum and the Darfur region.

“I am close to the suffering of those dear people of Sudan, and I make a heartfelt appeal to local leaders to encourage access to humanitarian aid and, with the contribution of the international community, to work towards finding peaceful solutions. Let us not forget these brothers of ours who are being tested,” said the pope.

Following his appeal for those in Sudan, the Holy Father spoke again about the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

“Every day our thoughts turn to the very serious situation in Israel and Palestine. I am close to all those who suffer, Palestinians and Israelis. I hug them in this dark moment. And I pray a lot for them.”

“Enough, brothers, enough! In Gaza, the wounded must be helped immediately, civilians must be protected, and much more humanitarian aid must be delivered to that exhausted population. The hostages, among whom there are many elderly people and children, must be freed.”

“Every human being, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, of any people and religion, every human being is sacred, precious in the eyes of God and has the right to live in peace. Let us not lose hope: we pray and work tirelessly so that the sense of humanity prevails over the hardness of hearts,” said the pope.