The Pope had strong words Tuesday for the self-righteous, calling them “fake saints.” Their heart does not belong to the Lord, he said. “It belongs to Satan, the father of all lies, and this is fake holiness.”
“All of us are clever enough to find a way to seem more righteous than we are.” The Pope said. “This is the path of hypocrisy.” These sort of people “say the right things, but do the opposite.” Hypocrisy, he said, is the great “snare” of Christians.
The Pope offered these reflections during his homily at morning Mass at the Saint Martha residence in the Vatican on Tuesday morning.
He said that Jesus preferred sinners “a thousand times” to hypocrites, because “sinners were telling the truth about themselves,” while hypocrites are liars. He recalled the meeting between Jesus and Peter, where Peter exclaimed: “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”
The Pope also said that Christians often have a mistaken idea of conversion, thinking that what they need is just to wash the stains off their conscience.
“The dirt of the heart is not removed as you remove a stain,” Francis said. “It is removed by ‘doing,’ by taking another path, a different road from that of evil. ‘Learn to do right!’ That is the way of doing good,” he said.
He recalled the words of the prophet Isaiah, which he called an “imperative” that comes directly from God: “Cease doing evil, learn to do good.” This, he said, is a change of life, a change of actions. And doing good, he said, means “defending orphans and widows,” and taking care of “those who no one remembers,” such as the abandoned, the elderly, children and those outside the faith. These are the “wounds of humanity,” said the Pope, where there is so much pain.
“By doing good,” Francis said, “you wash your heart.”
“The promise of a clean heart, one that is forgiven, comes from God himself,” Francis said. “He does not keep an account of the sins of those who love their neighbor.”
“The words—‘though your sins be like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow’—seem like an exaggeration,” Francis said, “but it is the truth!”
“The Lord gives us the gift of his forgiveness,” he said. “But if you want to be forgiven, you have to start on the path of doing good. This is the gift!”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome