The importance of safeguarding our Christian identity and not living double lives: that was the theme at the heart of Pope Francis’ homily at the Santa Marta Mass on Tuesday morning. The pope based his words on the daily readings which focus on the need for coherence between our spiritual and our temporal lives.
Pope Francis began by reflecting on the elderly Jewish Rabbi Eleazar who chose to be martyred rather than submit to the unjust laws that we read about in the second book of Maccabees. The 90-year-old Eleazar refused to eat pork meat and rejected the offer of his “worldly” friends to compromise his integrity, choosing instead to die a martyr’s death.
Spiritual worldliness, Pope Francis said, tempts us towards an inconsistent lifestyle, in which we pretend to be one thing but live in another way. It may be difficult to recognize, he said, but just as woodworm slowly destroys things, so worldliness slowly leads us to lose our Christian identity.
Worldliness, he went on, leads to inconsistency between the things we say – “Oh, I’m a good Catholic, Father, I go to Mass every Sunday” – and the things we do at work, such as offering or receiving bribes for example. This is not being consistent, the pope said, rather it leads to a double life which distances us from God and destroys our Christian identity.
For this reason, Pope Francis continued, Jesus strongly pleads with his Father to save his disciples from such a worldly spirit. The Christian spirit, on the other hand, the Christian identity, he said, is never egoistic, but always tries to be consistent, avoiding scandal, helping others and showing a good example.
The pope responded to objections such as, “It’s not easy, Father, to live in this world where there are so many temptations and we are lured by the attractions of a double life every single day!” For us it is impossible, he said, and only God can help us avoid such worldliness, which is why we pray in the Psalms, “The Lord, upholds me.” He is our support against that spirit which destroys our Christian identity.
That is why we pray with humility, saying “Lord, I am a sinner, all of us are sinners, but I ask you to uphold me so that I don’t pretend to be a Christian while living like a pagan, worldly person."
Pope Francis concluded by urging his listeners to pick up a bible and read the story of Eleazar in chapter six of the book of Maccabees. It will do you good, he said, and give you courage to be an example to others. It will give you strength and support to uphold your Christian identity, without compromise and without leading a double life.