The day after television viewers watched Bernie Sanders call Pope Francis a socialist, the pontiff announced that the prophet Isaiah was “no communist” just because he fought for social justice.
Power, Francis said in his Wednesday audience, when it lacks justice, mercy and respect for life “becomes greed that wants to own everything.”
Through the prophet Isaiah, “the Lord warns against the greed of the wealthy landowners who want to accumulate more lands and houses,” Francis said.
“And the prophet Isaiah was not a communist!” he said.
The Pope also recalled how another prophet—Elijah—was sent by God to help the unjust King Ahab to convert him to the Lord by calling up his wrongdoing before his eyes, and in fact, Ahab repents of his wrongdoing. “How good it would be if the powerful exploiters today would do the same!” he said.
One of the seven “spiritual works of mercy,” a popular Catholic devotion that goes hand in hand with the corporal works of mercy, is to “admonish the sinner,” a task that was often given to the Old Testament prophets.
The Pope said that money, possessions and power are not evil in themselves, but must be administered for the good of all.
“Wealth and power are realities that can be good and useful to the common good, if put to the service of the poor and all, with justice and charity,” he said.
The Pope said that riches can often lead to arrogance and selfishness and arrogance, and then become “instruments of corruption and death,” which is what happened in the case of King Ahab as described in the First Book of Kings, Francis said.
Jesus, on the other hand, commands differently, Francis said, and urges his disciples to practice humility. “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt,” he quoted. “But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.”
The exploitation described in the Book of Kings, Francis said, “is not a story of the past; it is also the story of today.”
“It is the story of human trafficking, slave labor, poor people who work in the black market at slave wages to enrich the powerful. It is the story of corrupt politicians who want more and more and more!” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome