Pope Francis: Worldliness Blinds Us to the Needs of the Poor: 'Worldly souls live in an artificial world, one of their making.'

March 5, 2015

Santa Marta

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Worldliness darkens the soul, making it unable to see the poor who live next to us with all their wounds: this was the message, in brief, that Pope Francis had for the faithful gathered for Mass in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican on Thursday morning.

Commenting on the parable of the rich man, a man dressed “in purple and fine linen,” who “every day gave lavish banquets,” the pope said that we never hear ill spoken of this man, we are not told that he was a bad man. In fact, “He was, perhaps, a religious man, in its own way: he prayed, perhaps, a few prayers and two or three times a year definitely went to the temple to make the sacrifices and gave large offerings to the priests, and they—with their clerical pusillanimity—gave him to sit in the place of honor.” They did not notice the poor beggar at his door, Lazarus, hungry, full of sores, which were the evidence of his grave need. Pope Francis went on to describe the situation of the rich man:

“When he went about town, we might imagine his car with tinted windows so as not [to be] seen from without—who knows—but definitely, yes, his soul, the eyes of his soul were darkened so that he could not see out. He saw only into his life, and did not realize what had happened to [himself]. He was not bad: he was sick, sick with worldliness—and worldliness transforms souls. It transforms souls, makes them lose consciousness of reality. Worldly souls live in an artificial world, one of their making. Worldliness anesthetizes the soul. This is why the worldly man was not able to see reality.”

The reality is that many poor people are living right in our midst:

“So many people are there, who bear so many difficulties in life, who live in great difficulty: but if I have the worldly heart, never will understand that. It is impossible for one with a worldly heart to comprehend the needs and the neediness of others. With a worldly heart you can go to church, you can pray, you can do so many things. But Jesus, at the Last Supper, in the prayer to the Father, what did He pray? ‘But please, Father, keep these disciples from falling into the world, from falling into worldliness.’ Worldliness is a subtle sin—it is more than a sin—it is a sinful state of soul.”

The Holy Father went on to discuss the two judgments given in the story: a curse for the man who trusts in the world and a blessing for those who trust in the Lord. The rich man turns his heart away from God, “his soul is empty,” a “salt and desolate land,” for, “the worldly, truth be told, are alone with their selfishness.” The worldly have “a heart that is sick, so attached to this worldly way of life that it could only be healed with great difficulty.” The pope underlined that, while the poor man had a name, Lazarus, the rich man in the account does not. “[The rich man] had no name, because the worldly lose their name. They are just one of the crowd affluent, who do not need anything. The worldly lose their name.”

In the parable, the rich man dies, and when he finds himself in torment in hell, and asks Abraham to send someone from the dead to warn family members still living. Abraham, however, replies that if they hear not Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead. The pope says that the worldly want extraordinary manifestations, yet, “in the church all is clear, Jesus spoke clearly: [His] is the way.” In the end, though, there is a word of consolation:

“When the poor worldly man, in torment, asks that Lazarus be sent with a little water to help him, how does Abraham respond? Abraham is the figure of God the Father. How does He respond? ‘Son, remember…’ The worldly have lost their name: we too, if we have a worldly heart, will have lost our name. We are not orphans, however: until the end, until the last moment there is the confidence that we have a Father who awaits us. Let us entrust ourselves to Him. ‘Son,’ he says: ‘son’, in the midst of that worldliness; ‘son.’ We are not orphans.”

Readings for March 5, 2015

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