Relationship with God should be intimate, not transactional, pope says

By Justin McLellan, Catholic News Service

         VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Just as Jesus drove out merchants from the temple in Jerusalem, Christians should cleanse themselves from a transactional relationship with God by developing an intimacy with him like that of a family in their home, Pope Francis said.

         Speaking to some 20,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square to pray the Angelus March 3, the pope highlighted the spiritual significance of the temple and said people's various conceptions of the temple represent "different ways of approaching the Lord."

         Although his voice occasionally sounded strained, he delivered the entirety of his prepared remarks. The day before he had told groups that he was suffering from bronchitis and during the previous week he had an aide read his speeches for him.

Pope Francis gives his blessing after praying the Angelus in
St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 3, 2024.
CNS photo/Vatican Media

         Citing the day's Gospel reading from St. John, in which Jesus tells those selling goods in the temple to "stop making my Father's house a marketplace," Pope Francis said the temple should be understood as a house where "we go to encounter the Lord, to be close to him, to be close to our brothers and sisters, to share joys and sorrows."

         "In the market, one seeks one's own interests," he said, whereas "at home, one gives freely."

         In the Gospel reading Jesus resorts to "harsh" words and actions — driving merchants out of the temple with a whip and overturning the tables of the money-changers — because he does not accept that the temple be transformed into a market, Pope Francis said.

         "He does not accept that our relationship with God is distant and commercial instead of intimate and trusting, he does not accept that selling stalls take the place of the family table, that prices take the place of hugs, and coins replace caresses," the pope said.

         By treating the temple as a market, he said, "a barrier is created between God and man and between brother and brother, whereas Christ came to bring communion, to bring mercy, that is, forgiveness, and to bring closeness."

         Pope Francis encouraged Catholics during Lent to "build a greater sense of home and less of a sense of the market in ourselves and around us."

         Building a sense of home is achieved by praying "like children who knock confidently at the Father's door without getting tired, and not like greedy and distrustful merchants," he said, as well as by spreading a sense of a fraternity.

         Pope Francis urged Christians to consider the quality of their prayer, to observe their relationships and to be generous and close to others, and he asked for Mary's help to "build a home with God, among us, and around us."