Vatican City — Christians who believe they have their eyes fixed firmly on the Lord can, without meaning to, create an "ecclesiastical micro-climate" where the poor and others in need cannot enter, Pope Francis said.
In a homily at his morning Mass Nov. 17, Pope Francis commented on the day's Gospel story from the Gospel of St. Luke about the blind man who hears Jesus passing by and shouts for help. People tell the man to be quiet and not disturb Jesus, but Jesus hears him and heals him.
During the Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae where he lives, the pope said the crowds and even Jesus' disciples wanted to keep the Lord "away from a periphery," away from someone who could be a bother.
"This periphery could not reach the Lord because this circle -- filled with good will, you know -- closed the door," the pope said, according to Vatican Radio. "This happens frequently with us believers. When we have found the Lord we create this ecclesiastical micro-climate without even realizing it."
Pope Francis said it is a temptation that afflicts all Catholics, not just priests and bishops.
"We've been looking at the Lord so long that we do not see what the Lord needs: We don't see the Lord who is hungry, who is thirsty, who is in prison, who is in the hospital. That Lord on the margins."
The formation of such a tight circle, he said, is bad for the church, bad for the needy and bad for the individual Christians involved.
Thinking that "we are the elect, we are with the Lord" is, in effect, "to have forgotten or abandoned one's first love," he said. It is the love "we all felt when the Lord called us, saved us and said to us, 'I love you.'"
According to the Vatican newspaper's report on the homily, Pope Francis said it is like telling Jesus, "'Lord, this one stinks. Don't let him come near.' But Jesus' response is clear: 'And you are saying you didn't stink when I kissed you?'"
Ignoring the needs of Jesus expressed in those who are suffering, he said, means "to forget the peripheries where we used to be, even if we are ashamed to admit it."
Referring to the crowds in the Gospel story who give praise to God when Jesus heals the blind man, Pope Francis said they are like the simple, faithful Catholics who never receive any special recognition or place within the community. They are members of the "marginalized church" -- the elderly, children, the sick and prisoners.
Pope Francis encouraged those at the Mass to pray that they would never form such a closed circle that keeps out "those who suffer, who ask for salvation, faith and the word of God."