Pope Francis: Reject “cosmetic” religion that is concerned with its outward appearance

Pope Francis prays during a Marian vigil in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Oct. 8. Also pictured is Msgr. Guido Marini, papal master of ceremonies. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) Pope Francis prays during a Marian vigil in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Oct. 8. Also pictured is Msgr. Guido Marini, papal master of ceremonies. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis said Jesus asks us to perform good deeds with humility and reject a “cosmetics” religion that is concerned with its outward appearance and pretending to be what it’s not. The pope was speaking at his morning mass on Tuesday, celebrated in the Santa Marta residence.

The inspiration for the pope’s homily was taken from the day’s readings of St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians and the gospel account when Jesus rebukes a Pharisee for concentrating on the outward appearance of cleanliness, rather than on the inner substance of his faith.

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Pope Francis noted that Jesus’s answer to the pharisee who criticized him for not observing the prescribed washing before the meal was unequivocal.

“‘Oh you pharisees!’” Francis read. “‘Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil.'” Jesus repeats this message many times in the gospel to these people: Your interior is wicked, is not good and is not free. ‘You are slaves because you have not accepted the justice that comes from God, the justice that Jesus has given us.’”

Mentioning another passage from the gospel, the pope noted Jesus urges us to pray without being seen, without being show-offs or like those shameless people who pray and give alms so they can be admired. Our lord, he stressed, instead shows us the path of humility.

Pope Francis went on to explain that, as Jesus said, what is important is the freedom given to us by redemption.

“That inner freedom, that freedom to do good deeds in secret without blowing our trumpets, is the path of true religion—is Jesus’ path: humility and humiliation,” Francis said. “And as Paul says to the Philippians, Jesus humiliates himself, empties himself. This is the only way to remove egoism, cupidity, arrogance, vanity and worldliness from ourselves. On the contrary, these people that Jesus rebukes are people who follow a ‘cosmetic’ religion: (about) show, appearance and pretending to be something but inside… Jesus uses a very strong image to describe these people: ‘You are like whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of corruption.’”

Continuing his reflections, Pope Francis pointed out that Jesus asks us to perform good deeds with humility. He said you can do all the good deeds you want but if you don’t do them with humility, as Jesus taught us, these good deeds count for nothing because they are born from you and your self-assurance rather than from the redemption that Jesus gave us.

This same redemption comes via “the path of humility and humiliations because humility never comes without humiliation. And we see Jesus humiliated on the cross,” he said.

“Let us ask the lord for us never to get tired of journeying along this path, to never get tired of rejecting this religion of show, of appearance, of pretending. And let us journey silently doing good, freely just as we freely received our inner freedom. And may he guard this inner freedom for all of us. Let us ask for this grace.”

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