Saying we must never use God as a cover for injustice, Pope Francis warned on Friday (February 20th) against those who follow all the outward signs of piety but then exploit or mistreat their employees or dependents. The Pope’s words came during his homily at morning Mass celebrated in the Santa Marta residence.
Pope Francis used his homily to reflect on how Christians, especially during Lent, should not confine themselves to outside signs of piety like fasting and charity and instead must reach out to those in need.
He said Jesus wants from us a fasting that breaks the evil chains, frees those who are oppressed, clothes those who are naked and carries out justice. This, he explained, is a true fasting, a fasting which is not a just an outward appearance or observance but a fasting which comes from the heart.
Love of God and neighbour are one and the same
“And in the tablets of the law, there’s the law towards God and the law towards our neighbour and both of these go together. I can’t say: ‘But no, I follow the three commandments first and the others more or less.’ No, if you don’t follow one, you can’t follow the other and if you follow one you must follow the other. They are united: Love of God and love of our neighbour is one and the same thing and if you want to show genuine and not just formal penance, you must show it before God and also towards your brothers and towards your neighbour.”
Grave sin to use God as a cover for injustice
Pope Francis highlighted the example of somebody who goes to Mass every Sunday and receives communion but then asked: does that person pay his or her employees in cash under the table, maybe a salary below the going rate and without making the necessary social security contributions?
“So many men and women of faith, have faith but then divide the tablets of the law. ‘Yes, I do this’ – ‘But do you practice charity?’ – Yes of course, I always send a cheque to the Church’ – ‘Ok, that’s good. But at your home, within your own Church, are you generous and are you fair with those who are your dependents - be they your children, your grandparents, your employees?’ You cannot make offerings to the Church on the shoulders of the injustice that you practice towards your dependents. This is a very serious sin: using God as a cover for injustice.”
At Lent make room in our hearts for those who have erred
The pope went on to explain how during Lent Christians should be reaching out to those who are less fortunate, be they children, old people without private health insurance who may have to wait eight hours to be seen by a doctor and those who have erred and who are now in prison.
“No, with those types of people I don’t (associate) ….’ He’s in prison: if you’re not in prison it’s because our Lord has helped you not to sin. Do you have room in your heart for prisoners in jail? Do you pray for them so that the Lord can help them to change their life?’ May the Lord accompany us on our Lenten journey so that our external observance becomes a profound renewal of the Spirit. That’s what we prayed for. That the Lord may give us this grace.”