At this morning’s mass at St. Martha’s House, Francis said faithful are called to act coherently: “those who treat people who depend on them unfairly are not good Christians”
Domenico Agasso jr Taken from Vatican Insider
RomeNever use the Lord to cover up injustices. This was Francis’ call at this morning’s mass in St. Martha’s House. Christians must live their love for God and for their neighbour coherently, particularly at Lent.
The Pope warned against the kind of attitude that sees people sending cheques to the Church but them behaving unfairly with their own children, grandparents and employees.
Pope Francis focused today’s meditation on a text by Isaiah chosen for today’s first reading: he underlined the importance of distinguishing between “the formal and the real”: for God, “not eating meat but then fighting and exploiting employees is not fasting”. Hence His Son condemns the Pharisees: they respect observances on the outside but without heartfelt sincerity.
The kind of fasting Christ wants involves breaking the chains of injustice, setting the oppressed free, dressing those without clothes and acting fairly: “This is what real fasting is about, fasting not just on the outside, it is not just an external observance, it is something that comes from the heart.”
“The tables of the law set out our duties toward God and our duties toward our neighbours. Both go together,” Francis said. “I cannot say: ‘Well, I’ll just obey the first three Commandments … and the others more or less.” No, if you do not do these, then you can’t do that and if you do this, then you must do this. They go hand in hand: love for God and love for one’s neighbour go together and if you want to do penance, really not formally, you must do penance before God and with your brother and neighbour.”
You may have faith but, as the Apostle James says, if you do not “show this in actions, what is the use?” If someone goes to mass every Sunday and receives communion, you may ask him or her: “And what is your relationship with your employees like? Do you pay them “under the table”? Do you pay them the right salary? Do you pay contributions for their pension? Health insurance?” “How many faithful, men and women, have faith but split the tables of the law: ‘Yes, yes, I do this’ – ‘But do you ever donate?’ – ‘Yes, yes, I send a cheque to the Church’ – ‘Ah, good, ok. But are you generous and fair to those within your Church, your home, those who depend on you – be they your children, grandparents or employees?’ You cannot make offerings to the Church and at the same time treat your employees unfairly. This is a very serious sin: it is using God to cover up injustice.”
“Here is what the Prophet Isaiah shows us in the name of the Lord”: “those who treat people who depend on them unfairly are not good Christians”; and “those who do not give up something they need in order to give it to someone else who is in need” is not a good Christian either.
This is what the journey of Lent is: “it is a double journey, toward God and one’s neighbour. It is real therefore, not merely formal,” Francis pointed out. “It is not about giving up meat only on a Friday, making a small gesture and then allowing selfishness, exploitation of others and the ignorance of the poor to grow.”
Francis recalled: some people go to hospital for treatment and see a doctor immediately because they are members of a health insurance fund: “It is a good thing. But tell me, have you thought of those who don’t have this social relationship with the hospital and when they get there they have to wait 6, 7 or 8 hours, even when it is an emergency?”
In Rome there are people who live like this and Lent is a time to “think about them: what can I do for the children and the elderly who are not able to see a doctor?” who sometimes wait around for “8 hours and then they are told to come back a week later.” “What do you do for these people?” the pope asked. “What will your Lent be like?”
“‘Thank God I have a family that obeys the Commandments, we’re ok…” – ‘But this Lent, is there space in your heart for those who have not obeyed the Commandments? Who have erred and are now in prison?’- “‘Not with those people no …’ – ‘But they are in prison, if you are not in prison it means the Lord has helped you not to err. Does your heart have any space for those in prison? Do you pray for them, that the Lord may help them turn their life around?’”
Francis ended with a prayer: “Lord, accompany us on our Lenten journey, so that external observance may correspond to a profound renewal of the Spirit. May the Lord grant us this grace.”