Vatican City — An inability to dialogue and to accept that God may be doing new things are signs of disobedience to God, Pope Francis said.
Obedience often leads people to a path for their life that is not the one they planned on taking, he said. To obey is "to have the courage to change paths when the Lord asks this of us."
Celebrating Mass on Thursday in the chapel of his residence, Pope Francis told the small congregation that because it was the 88th birthday of retired Pope Benedict XVI, he wanted to offer the Mass for him. "I invite you to pray for him, that the Lord might sustain him and grant him much joy and happiness."
In his homily, Pope Francis looked at the story in the day's first Scripture reading, Acts 5:27-33, about Jewish leaders ordering the disciples to stop preaching about Jesus, but the disciples reply: "We must obey God rather than men."
The Jewish leaders, the pope said, "were doctors -- they had studied the history of the people, they studied the prophecies, they studied the law, they knew the whole theology of the people of Israel, the revelation of God, they knew everything, they were doctors -- and yet they were incapable of recognizing God's salvation."
Their "anger and desire to silence those who were preaching the newness of God -- that is, that Jesus was risen" -- was the clearest sign that they were "not open to the Lord's voice and to the signs of the Lord in the midst of his people."
"They were the same ones who paid the guards at the tomb to tell the disciples that Jesus' body had been stolen," the pope said. "They did all that to avoid opening themselves to God's voice."
The leaders, he said, were not simply "hard-headed, it wasn't a simple stubbornness." The problem, he said, was "hardness of heart."
People are not born hard-hearted, he said; they've practiced "closing in on themselves" and refusing to dialogue or listen to others.
"They didn't know how to dialogue," not even with God, he said. "They did not know how to pray and hear the Lord's voice, and they didn't know how to dialogue with others."
Their only key for interpreting the law, Pope Francis said, was "to make it more precise. But they were closed to the signs of God in history and were closed to his people, their people. They were closed, closed."
The tragedy of the doctors of the law, "these theologians of the people of God," he said, was that "they did not know who to listen and they didn't know how to dialogue. Dialogue is what you do with God and with your brothers and sisters."