3 Spiritual Traps to Avoid (According to Pope Francis)

Pope Francis | Audience

Pope Francis has offered us a lot of advice on how to be better Christians and people. He's also taken a hard look at some practices among the faithful that have long been accepted in different forms, but that are bad for spiritual health.

1. Limiting God

I believe in God, not in a Catholic God, there is no Catholic God, there is God and I believe in Jesus Christ, his incarnation. Jesus is my teacher and my pastor, but God, the Father, Abba, is the light and the Creator.
-Pope Francis

This might seem obvious. God is limitless, and trying to limit God is a rookie mistake. But we limit God when we act like one must meet certain requirements to have access to God. We also limit God when we think we know precisely how God thinks and acts and who is privy to God's grace. 

When we try and puff ourselves up because of our membership in a Church and see others' encounters with God as deficient, we are limiting God who is larger than all of us and knows each and every one of us intimately.

2. Insulation

Whenever we Christians are enclosed in our groups, our movements, our parishes, in our little worlds, we remain closed, and the same thing happens to us that happens to anything close: when a room is closed, it begins to get dank. If a person is closed up in that room, he or she becomes ill.
-Pope Francis

Once we find our comfort zone - when we feel confident in our worldview and our way of life - we often surround ourselves with people and institutions who think and act the same way we do. We become insulated, surrounded by agreement, and therefore more and more confident in ourselves and less and less open to the Holy Spirit. In an echo chamber, it's hard to tell which voice is God's, and which voice is our own.

When we allow ourselves to open the door and encounter the "other", we open the door to the Holy Spirit. For one thing, we may find that our worldviews are a whole lot more similar than we thought they were. But more importantly, we will be challenged to refine ourselves through the lens of mercy (and others too will benefit from being challenged by us). 

3. Disciplinarianism

If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God.
-Pope Francis

In an attempt to be faithful to the Church, it can be tempting to fall into a kind of legalism that evokes the Pharisees of Jesus' time. It can seem like the path to holiness is to live by a rigid moral code, memorizing a list of behaviors to avoid. As Pope Francis points out, this is often connected with restorationism: recalling practices from a time when people were supposedly holier. But when we encase ourselves in a list of rules and the protective cushion of the past, we actually take part in a form of idolatry. 

The path to holiness comes from grace from Jesus Christ, not from any kind of structured human tradition we apply to ourselves. Of course we should avoid sin and seek the good through the help of Christ, but a constant preoccupation with the rule book over love and mercy isn't spiritually healthy. Jesus tells us to "be not afraid". But choosing to be spiritual "bubble boys" is just an expression of fear, and ultimately betrays a lack of confidence that God has us. 




3 Spiritual Traps to Avoid (According to Pope Francis)