The Christian faith teaches that God is a real, concrete person, not an intangible essence or esoteric mist like “god-spray”, Pope Francis has said.
In his homily on Thursday at an early morning Mass in the chapel of his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, Pope Francis said many people say they believe in God, but do not have a clear idea of who He is.
God is a real person – a Father – and faith springs forth from a tangible experience of an encounter with him, the Pope told his listeners. The congregation was made up of members of the Inspectorate for Public Security at the Vatican – a special unit of the Italian police that provides security and law enforcement in St Peter’s Square, and guarantees and coordinates all armed escorts for the Pope when he leaves the Vatican.
“We believe in God who is Father, who is Son, who is Holy Spirit,” Pope Francis said.
“We believe in persons and when we talk to God we speak with persons” who are concrete and tangible, not some misty, diffused god-like “‘god spray” that’s a little bit everywhere but who knows what it is.”
This faith in the real presence of Jesus is a gift from God himself, the Pope said, and when he gives this gift of faith “we must continue on this path”, rejoicing.
“However, if we take this path, it is always with our own baggage – because we’re all sinners and we always have some things that aren’t right. But the Lord forgives us if we ask for forgiveness,” he said.
Referring to the day’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles when Philip preached the word to a travelling officer of the queen’s court, the Pope highlighted the experience of the worldly officer who hears the Good News, is baptised and “continued on his way rejoicing”.
The Pope said it is important people never get discouraged, but keep pressing on like the officer so the same encounter “will happen to us”.
The officer’s joy is “the joy of faith, the joy of having met Jesus, the joy that only Jesus can give us, the joy that gives peace, not what the world gives, but what Jesus gives”, he said.
“Let us ask the Lord that we may grow in this faith, this faith that makes us strong, makes us joyful, this faith that always begins with an encounter with Jesus and always continues throughout life with small daily encounters with Jesus,” he said.
Fr Tim Finigan, parish priest in Blackfen, Kent, took up the idea of “god spray” on his blog, saying it sums up “the vague religiosity of many people who are happy enough to use the Church when they need it but stay within the bounds of saying ‘I think it’s nice to have a faith’”.
“I confess that I have already used this quotation in my pastoral ministry and I intend to use it again. It sums up in a gentle way an attitude that we have to challenge,” Fr Finigan said.