Pope Francis smiles as he leaves his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 1. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis smiles as he leaves his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican May 1. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Christian faith is about saying “yes” to God’s love and forgiveness in a way that saying “no” to sin will come naturally, Pope Francis said at his early morning Mass.

The church is “a community of ‘yes,’ and the ‘no’s’ are a consequence of this ‘yes,'” the pope said May 2 during the Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae where he lives. Sri Lankan Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo concelebrated the Mass, which was attended by employees of the Vatican Museums.

Preaching about the earliest Christian community and the debates among the disciples over whether pagan converts had to live according to Jewish law and practice, Pope Francis said it is clear that the promptings of the Holy Spirit can create problems for people.

The Holy Spirit does two things, he said, “first, it pushes,” which can create problems, then “it creates harmony in the church.”

The pope said, “There were many opinions” among the early disciples about the outreach to the pagans and whether they could be exempt from circumcision and the other precepts of Jewish law that the first Christians kept.

Some said, “No, no you can’t; one must do this and this and this,” while others said, “Let’s think about it, open ourselves up; the Holy Spirit is opening the door,” the pope said.

At that point, he said, the Holy Spirit had to create harmony, which is something the Spirit has continued to do in the church throughout history.

“And when we don’t let the Spirit work, divisions within the church begin,” which are a sign that “we are closed to the truth of the Spirit,” Pope Francis said.

The Holy Spirit, which gave birth to the faith of the pagans in the first place, helped the disciples realize that they should not place a great burden on the pagans.

“When serving the Lord becomes such a heavy yoke, the doors of the Christian community are closed; no one wants to come to the Lord,” the pope said. “We believe we are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus,” which gives rise to joy.

Faith, he said, is a “yes” to the love of Jesus, which then leads Christians to say “no” to certain behaviors and attitudes.

Love “brings us to faithfulness to the Lord,” he said, and “because I love the Lord, I don’t do this or that.”

“This is when a Christian community lives in love, confesses its sins, worships the Lord, forgives offenses, is charitable toward others and manifests love,” he said.

Pope Francis asked those at Mass to pray that the Holy Spirit would help the church always be a community that says “yes” to God’s love and to his commandments, a “community of open doors” rather than one that invents and imposes extra requirements.

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service