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Complaining too often can distance us from Jesus, says Pope Francis

By on Thursday, 4 April 2013

Pope Francis waves to the crowd as he leaves his first Angelus (Photo: CNS)

Pope Francis waves to the crowd as he leaves his first Angelus (Photo: CNS)

Complaining frequently can become an obsession that obscures the presence of Jesus in difficult situations, Pope Francis has said.

Celebrating morning Mass earlier this week with staff members from the Domus Romana Sacerdotalis, a nearby residence and guesthouse for clergy, Pope Francis preached about the Gospel story from St Luke about the two disappointed disciples on the road to Emmaus after the death of Jesus.

“They were afraid. All of the disciples were afraid,” he said. As they walked toward Emmaus and discussed everything that had happened, they were sad and complaining. “And the more they complained, the more they were closed in on themselves: They did not have a horizon before them, only a wall,” the Pope explained, according to Vatican Radio.

The disciples had had such high hopes that Jesus would be the one who would redeem Israel, but they thought their hopes were destroyed, he said on Wednesday.

“And they stewed, so to speak, their lives in the juice of their complaints and kept going on and on and on with the complaining,” the Pope said. “I think that many times when difficult things happen, including when we are visited by the cross, we run the risk of closing ourselves off in complaints.”

When all people can think of is how wrong things are going, Pope Francis said, the Lord is close, “but we don’t recognise him. He walks with us, but we don’t recognise him.”

Like the disciples joined by the risen Lord on the road to Emmaus, people can hear beautiful things, but deep down, they continue to be afraid, the Pope told the congregation.

“Complaining seems safer. It’s something certain. This is my truth: failure,” he said before adding that the Gospel story shows how very patient Jesus is with the disciples, first listening to them and then explaining things step by step, until they see him.

Complaining and griping, about others and about things in one’s own life, is harmful “because it dashes hope. Don’t get into this game of a life of complaints.”

  • sclerotic

    “And the more they complained”. Where? Not on the road to Emmaus – they had great hopes, these had seemingly gone. Not the best bit of exegesis.

  • eagartolearn

    Stop complaining…

  • Paul Duffy

    I believe more accurately translated as – “they had had hope” – 2 hads, past tense. With hope gone they could only discuss their disappointment, that is complain. Until somebody walked beside them that is.

  • An onlooker

    Looking to find fault, very similar to complaining.

  • nicole

    complaining, negativity, petty criticisms, finding faults with others … it’s all kind of the same and it’s harmful to the spirit

  • andHarry

    ‘”And the more they complained”. Where? Not on the road to Emmaus – they
    had great hopes, these had seemingly gone. Not the best bit of exegesis.’

    We are all somewhere on the road to Emmaus. It appears that having Pope Francis come up with an explanation would not be likely to impress you:)

  • Clare D

    Love it, I can breathe easier already!



  • James M

    “Complaining frequently can become an obsession that obscures the presence of Jesus in difficult situations, Pope Francis has said.”

    ## Were the disciples complaining – or deeply disappointed ? Given the text of Luke 24, STM the latter is the answer. People have been complaining – very rightly – about his liturgical carryings-on; that is the appropriate reaction to violations of the Liturgy, regardless of who the violator may be. But if he were to do it again, that would not be disappointing, b/c it would be the same regrettable stuff people would have come to expect; it would be deplorable, but might well lack the element of surprise that is part of being disappointed . Their trouble was something bigger and deeper than grousing – though that too is found in the gospels.

    For complaining, the Israelites on the Exodus are unbeatable. They whinged all the time. Or there are the Pharisees & co. – constant complaining there too. Complaining of liturgical abuse is not whinging as long as the complaining is governed by the virtues, especially charity. Complaints that rise from a supernatural motive and remain that way are not vicious, but virtuous, and, so far as they go, are signs of God’s grace.

  • Simon D

    Of course, the irony here is that this is a passive-aggressive complaint about how people complain. It’s also ironic because he doesn’t just misrepresent Luke, he pulls him inside-out: Neither disciple is recorded as complaining, but Jesus is!

  • Pope Zicola

    That’s another ‘urban legend’ blown out of the water about our new Holy Father.
    In that he is NOT the inspiration for Victor Meldrew – writer David Renwick’s legendary character from One Foot In The Grave – nor is he the cousin of Coronation Street’s Norris Cole.

    There’s complaining… and there’s complaining.

    It doesn’t take a MasterMind champion to work that one out, surely?


    By saying, ‘stop complaining!’ does the Holy Father mean making Customer Services etc. redundant? Shutting down official bodies and pressure groups who don’t like what’s going on in the country?

    Making elected representative’s parliamentary or council surgeries more streamlined and less ‘whingey’ as in no more bellyaching about the leylandii growing like Jack’s beanstalk in next door’s garden blocking out the sunlight from your line full of washing – that sort of thing?

    No more whistleblowing i.e. complaining about people who are bullying, harassing, stealing from the firm etc.?

    No more petitioning the government about the issues affecting our faith and everyday lives as is now?

    Raging at how the UK TV Licence is being spent paying off BBC people for not doing their jobs properly and competently and paying out compensation to those who needlessly suffered at the hands of one of their so-called ‘Golden Geese’ i.e. Jimmy Savile because they refused to act on those ‘complaints’?

    Complaining about that pain you are suffering from (or someone close to you) that won’t go away, no matter how many times you have visited the doctor about it or how many courses of medication you’ve been on.

    Complaining about why your nearest and dearest haven’t phoned you/faxed you/skyped you/emailed you/texted you or set foot inside the door…

    The list goes on here…

    Or is it about the usual man/woman stuff like the debate about toilet seats being up or down, laundry on the floor, breaking wind, eating loudly, empty toilet rolls, singing in the bath…

    …bad weather, flight delays, missed trains/buses/planes, queues not moving as quick as you would like, teenagers, the youth of today, rude people – A-HAH!
    So, it’s the stuff we CAN’T help with the best human will in the world that we spend our precious time getting hung up about regularly that Pope Francis is talking about!
    He must take his inspiration from Father Dolindo (a priest and visionary seer and contemporary of St Padre Pio who composed a novena relating to leaving all in Jesus’ Holy Hands to take care of everything) and Our Lady Undoer of Knots (a European devotion to Our Lady which made its way to Argentina) in this respect.
    Like our Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI, Pope Francis is ON MESSAGE about matters but in a different way!
    It’s nice to see an initiative from the Holy Father that helps us to chat about the bigger picture of life at the water cooler, in a staff room, at the bus stop, over a cup of something hot and sweet and the cakes and biscuits… yep! Very Christ-like.

    It sure beats yacking about some reality show or other… another object of complaint!

  • Gloria Burns Enoch, Ofs

    Very good. thanks for the reminder. I will be able to move on now. Pax et Bonum.

  • Gradus Quia

    Even had B16 not been the predecessor, this humbler-than-thou stuff – and the thought which goes with it – is just banal. It’s like Bart Simpson got religion. Really.

    Pray, Pay, and Don’t Complain? F-prime is channeling Bernard Cardinal Law now.

  • LocutusOP

    “Like our Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI, Pope Francis is ON MESSAGE about matters but in a different way!”

    I’ll agree with that and put it this way….The Pope’s latest talking point on Maundy Thursday has taught me quite a lot about humility, and although I disblike having to get up and say all these lines in the Novus Ordo Mass, I’ll submit myself to actually doing what is prescribed by the rubrics, out of sheer humility, lest I lead others into indifference.

    It’s true that Pope Francis has really given us food for thought though – although I really wish he hadn’t.

  • Priyanka

    But complaining comes so naturally. What should I do instead? I tried giving GOD thanks for my situation, didnt work I found myself faking it. The thanksgiving wasnt heartfelt.

  • An onlooker

    Have I got this right? Are you citing the Israelites as depicted in the Old Testament and the Pharisees in the New Testament as role models? You certainly seem to be extolling as a virtue a self-righteous and judgemental approach to other people, especially to the pope.

  • Theresa Moler

    Spot on. I take this as applying to myself, sometimes in being a Martha with serving and complaining can go with the territory, I fail to spend enough time with Jesus.

  • Darnell

    doesn’t seem to be passive aggressive to me. if the pope speaks against anything in a negative way to lift us up and move beyond ourselves toward Christ…is that going to be a problem?

  • OneoftheSheep

    I find such grace and wisdom in Pope Francis’ teaching.

  • A Most Indignant Complainer

    I complained to the Catholic herald yesterday, because they deleted one of my comments.

    “Don’t complain too much”. I agree, I suppose, but it needs to be interpreted sensibly.

    Anyway, it can’t be as insensitive as what the former Archbishop of Milwaulkee said:

    “any libellous material found in your letter [of complaint] will be scrutinized carefully by our lawyers”

    …it was a complaint from a group of teachers about sex abuse. The Archbishop in question was +Weakland, who once paid USD 450,000 to a rent boy.

  • silvy

    A friend of mine who was always complaining ended up losing touch with reality. We need to be optimistic and trust in God’s will. Faith, hope and charity are the answers.

  • CDville

    Start in the flesh, end in the spirit. Thank God for what He can accomplish through your situation, even though the situation is plainly terrible. Only through our weakness can He show His strength. He works all things for good for those who love Him and are called by Him. By not complaining, by praising God, we do eventually develop heartfelt thanksgiving.

  • Timki11

    Don’t complain.

  • FrankieG

    This was very helpful. Thanks Pope Francis!

  • mortimer zilch

    where can I get ALL the Popes public statements? There used to be a magazine to which I subscribed called, “The Pope Speaks” and it had all his public discourse. Where now?

  • Jackie Stutmann

    Complaining is ingratitude and basically it’s in effect accusing God of “mismanaging” your day. Being discontent with life contaminates one’s soul. The opposite of complaining is learning to be grateful for everything and seeing God in every aspect of our lives, even and especially in times that challenge us, because it is what God is permitting to happen in order to shape us into his image.

  • Joe shmoe

    Be grateful you will live in paradise for eternity, and the memory of the current situation will be wiped from your memory!

  • jose de jesus

    Everything is all right! The light has won!. Be joyfull!

  • Dr Falk

    Yes. Where we stand is Holy Ground – God is here. The Blessed Trinity is Here present – God fills the whole of creation. The poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins puts it well –

    ‘The world is charged with the grandeur of God……Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.’

  • dave

    complaining is wrong its an everyday struggle to try and not do it remember what the pope said and try to live and not do it im going to try my best

  • mrgb

    Complaining is a result of self-focus, which is the beginning of any sin.

  • Webpreacher

    ,Preached from the gospel of Luke, two that were complaining on the road to Emmaus ?
    Here it is, does this sound like two complaining, or two having a compelling testimony ?

    Luke 24: 13-35,
    13. “And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs”.
    14. “And they talked together of all these things which had happened”.
    15. “And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them”.
    16. “But their eyes were holden that they should not know him”.
    17. “And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad”?
    18. “And the one of them, whose name was Cleapas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not know the things which are come to pass there in these days”?
    19. “And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet might in deed and word before God and all the people”:
    20. “And how the cheif priest and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him”.
    21. “But we trust that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third since these things were done”.
    22. “Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre”;
    23. “And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive”.
    24. “And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not”.
    25. “Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken”:
    26. “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory”?
    27. “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself”>
    28. “And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further”.
    29. “But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them”.
    30. “And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them”.
    31. “And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight”.
    32. “And they said one to another, Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures”?
    33. “And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,

    34. Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon”.

    35. “And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread”. ………………………

    Nothing here speaks of complaining to me, though they were sad, (as Lord Jesus made clear v.17), who would they be complaining to , each other, doubtful, it says there were “communing, one with another”, NOT complaining to one another? They certainly were not complaining to LORD Jesus, and He did not say, “why are ye complaining” (paraphrasing), These two, who, as the Bible records, were two who were there, witnesses to all that had happened to Jesus, where simply talking about what all had happened among themselves, and as it is recorded, trying to reason it all out together, not complaining !

    But, what can you expect coming from the lost in the world, one not being indwelled with the Holy Spirit of God, nor regenerated by the “Born Again” conversion, spiritually quickened ?

  • DRW

    They ONLY way to make known our disappointment with God in general is to complain! As long as YOU don’t end up being a “constant whiner or covetcher with God, is, in MY opinion OK! Why YOU ask??? It’s called communication. And communication between God and man (woman) is a two way street! We are referred in the scriptures as “children of God” or sons/daughters of God! Ever see complete agreements between fathers/sons or fathers/daughters even in the best of families throughout the entire lifespan of fathers/sons and fathers/daughters? Our families are a mirror image to what our relationship is to God! Keep reading the Holy Scriptures and you will read about men/women of Faith who “wrestled with God and expected God to keep his word/promises. Does Jacob who “wrestled with God to give him his blessings, the prophet Jeremiah whom God the Father said “quit your complaining….I will give you your blessings ring a bell? I want God to from ME how much I love him, how grateful I am etc. but also my disappointments and if that means to complain once in a while… be it!!

  • AfterABath

    Beautiful, absolutely NAILED it.
    Peace brother.

  • Jackie wright

    The pope is not complaining about people who complain. His motive is instruction which is what Jesus did. Jesus called out the naysayers, that is called admonishing -not complaining. Jesus never, ever complained.

  • Jackie wright

    Our Catechism states that we are not to do evil so something good may result. Your point here seems to instruct people that it’s o.k. to complain as long as there is a supernatural motive of charity. This directly contradicts how we are to live as Catholics. The protestants didn’t like the way things were going with the church and they started their own religion. Maybe that will happen here with all of those who are denouncing our pope.

  • Pope Zicola

    Amen! I agree with you.

    I attended another EF Mass after Easter… it’s a spa bath for the soul. It’s beautiful!

    How I wish ALL priests could do this every Sunday and Holyday – not just in a few parishes or a handful of orders like the Institute of Christ The King and the Oratorians.

    Having missed out on the joys of the ”old mass” as it is unfairly called due to the misrepresentation of Vatican II (sorry, I’m moaning again!), I will forever thank God through His Son Jesus Christ for Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI for taking it out of the behind-the-glass museum and giving us a taste of what good prayer and a good celebration of mass should be!

    Yet again, I have found a lot of young people in attendance… not the ubiquity of old grey heads as in the regular novus ordo!
    Although I embrace Pope Francis to my heart, is it so awful – or, am I the only one – that I’m not over the departure of Pope Benedict XVI, almost two months on? I miss his gentleness which belie the steeliness of the rigours of his office, his smile and the quality of his interpreting of Christ’s teachings?

    Er… am I moaning again?


  • Manoj

    okay no issue.

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    O Priyankaji, so good of you to be so humble and revealing your self and asking for help.

    You said, “But complaining comes so naturally. What should I do instead?”

    Taking the responsibility on oneself and persisting with the Lord can move the Lord to come to our help. Our God is God of the IMPOSSIBLE; what is impossible for us he will make it possible when we persist with him.

    More often the problem is within us not outside of us.

    If one lives in the atmosphere of God’s Word and use the Word of God for daily meditation, seeking to know God and his holy will (ask for the supply of our needs but surrender it to his holy will instead of ours) the result will be encouraging and even inspiring.

    As a boy of 16-17, I used to question Jesus about his Real presence in the Consecrated Bread. It went on for quite long. At the end I always felt joy, because I was serious and sincere and persistent to find out the Truth. And after many many years I had the first experience of MIRACLE from Jesus THE BREAD of eternal life.

    Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    At times complaints are legitimate.

  • michellertg

    I needed to hear this to remind me about me of God’s Love. And how my personal struggles bring me closer to him.

  • Michael

    This extremely superficial reading of the Gospel by “webpreacher” is just one of the many reasons God didn’t make the “webpreacher” pope in God’s one and only Church that He built.

  • Michael

    You still need a bath, cleansing of error and shallowness…, and please learn a little bit about God and His one Church.

  • Ivon Darson

    Well Said! Really thought provoking! Thank u!

  • acs

    ‘Hope in Him. Hold firm and take heart; hope in the Lord.’–Psalm 27