Pope Francis: Going to Church Doesn’t Make You a Good Christian

AP Images/Alessandra Tarantino

Too many so-called religious people are filled with worldliness, said Pope Francis, which blinds them to the situation of the people around them, especially those who suffer. “If your heart is worldly you cannot understand the needs and hardships of others,” he said.

In his homily at Mass Thursday in the chapel of the Saint Martha residence in the Vatican, Francis reflected on the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, which speaks of a very wealthy man who feasted splendidly every day but was oblivious to the needs of a destitute beggar who lay near the gate to his house, covered with sores.

“With a worldly heart you can go to church, you can pray, you can do many things,” the Pope said, but what you cannot do is see the needs of other people. Worldliness, Francis said, “is a subtle sin. In fact, it’s more than a sin, it’s a sinful state of the soul.”

Reflecting on the rich man that Jesus speaks about in his parable, Francis said that for all we know he wasn’t an evil man. But he was the sort, said Francis, who probably drove “a car with tinted glass so as not to see outside.” Or at any rate, “the eyes of his soul were certainly tinted so as not to see.”

The rich man, Francis said, dressed in purple and fine linen and feasted sumptuously every day. “Maybe he was a religious man, in his own way,” Francis said. “Maybe he prayed and a couple times a year he surely went up to the temple to offer sacrifices and he gave big donations to the priests, who in their clerical cowardice would thank him and give him a seat of honor.”

The man was never aware that at his gate lay a poor beggar, hungry and covered with sores, Francis said.

The Pope said that worldliness is a disease that “transforms souls, making them lose touch with reality. They live in an artificial world of their own making,” unable to see the reality around them.

There is a “curse on the person who trusts in the world and a blessing on the one who trusts in the Lord,” Francis said. In Jesus’ parable, the rich man’s soul “is a desert and an inhabitable wasteland,” because worldly people “are alone with their selfishness,” Francis said.

In the end, however, there is always hope, he said. When the rich man appeals to Abraham—who here represents God—Abraham calls him “my son.” Right up to the end, the Pope said, “we have a father who waits for us.” In the midst of our worldliness “he calls us his children. We are not orphans,” he said.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome