(Vatican Radio) Idolatry and hypocrisy do not spare even the Christian life. Pope Francis put us on guard against both these vices in his homily at this morning’s Mass at the Casa Santa Marta. In order not to give in to the dangers of these sins, he said, it is necessary to put into practice the commandments of love of God and love of neighbour.
Once again, the liturgy of the Mass elicits from Pope Francis a reflection on the traps that punctuate the life of faith: To become an apostle of one’s own ideas, or a devotee of one’s own well-being, rather than that of God; speaking ill about someone because he does not conform to certain formalities, forgetting that the “new” commandment of Christianity is love of neighbour without ifs and buts. From the words of St. Paul, the Pope goes on to condemn the sin of idolatry, that of people who – as the Apostle says – “for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give Him thanks” preferring to worship “the creature rather than the creator.” It is an idolatry, the Pope said, that “stifles the truth of the Faith” in which “is revealed the righteousness of God”:
“But since we all have need to worship – because we have the imprint of God within us – when we do not worship God, we worship creatures. And this is the passage from faith to idolatry. These people, idolaters, have no excuse: because having known God, they have neither glorified nor worshipped Him as God. And what is the way of idolatry? He says clearly: ‘they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened.’ The selfishness of their own thoughts, the omnipotent thought, that which I think is true: I think the truth, I make the truth with my thought.”
The critics of Saint Paul, two thousand years ago, went to the idolaters who prostrated themselves before reptiles, birds, and four-legged creatures. And here, Pope Francis immediately responds to the objection that this problem doesn’t arise, because no one goes around worshipping statues. It’s not so, the Pope replied: idolatry has found new forms and fashions:
“Even today, there are so many idols, and even today there are so many idolaters, so many who think they are wise. But even among us, among Christians, eh? I’m not speaking about them, I respect them, those who aren’t Christians. But among us – we’re speaking within the family – they think they’re wise, they know everything… They’ve become foolish and exchange the glory of the incorruptible God with an image: myself, my ideas, my comforts . . . Today, all of us – I go ahead, eh! It’s not only something historic – even today, along the way there are idols, even a step forward . . . We all have within ourselves some hidden idol. We can ask ourselves, in the sight of God: what is my hidden idol? What takes the place of God?”
If Saint Paul calls the idolaters foolish, in the day’s Gospel Jesus says the same thing about the hypocrites, in the person of the Pharisees who are scandalized because the Master hadn’t washed as was the norm before sitting down at table. “You Pharisees!” Jesus replied. “Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil.” And He adds, “But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.”
“Jesus counsels: don’t look at appearances, go by the truth. The plate is the plate, but what is important is what’s on the plate: the meal. But if you are vain, if you are a careerist, if you are ambitious, if you are a person that always puts himself forward or likes to advance yourself, because you think you are perfect, give a little bit of alms and that will heal your hypocrisy. This is the way of the Lord: it is to worship God, to love God above all things and to love your neighbour. It’s so simple, but so difficult! This can only be done with grace. Let us ask for this grace”.