Bullying those who are weaker than we are is the fruit of original sin and “the work of the devil,” Pope Francis told the assembly gathered for his morning Mass on Monday.
“How much wickedness there is even in children!” the Pope told his congregation in the chapel of his Saint Martha residence in the Vatican. “They pick on the weakest!”
“I ask myself: what is inside these people? What is inside of us that leads us to despise, mistreat, and mock the weakest?” Francis asked. “I believe it is one of the vestiges of original sin, because attacking the weak was the office of Satan from the beginning: he did it with Jesus and he does it with us, with our weaknesses.”
“There is no compassion in Satan: there is no place for compassion,” he continued. “And when the weak is attacked, there is no compassion. We always need to dirty the other, to pick on the other.”
Just as we attribute our good inspirations to the Holy Spirit, he said, so too we can be sure that bullying comes from the devil. “When we realize we have within ourselves this desire to pick on another because he is weak, we should not doubt: the devil is there. Because picking on the weak is the work of the devil,” he said.
The Pope enumerated several example of this sort of bullying and mockery from the Bible, beginning with the case of the two wives of Elkanah as recounted in the First Book of Samuel.
Elkanah “had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none,” the text states.
“Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat,” it reads.
Peninnah, the Pope said, “instead of helping or consoling her, grieved her harshly. She mistreated and humiliated her: ‘You are barren.’ It was a joke.”
Francis also mentioned a similar situation between Abraham’s wives Hagar and Sarah, one of whom had a child while the other was sterile. Goliath, too, Francis said, despised David when he saw him and “made a mockery of the weak.”
“And today we see it continuously in schools,” Francis said, “with the phenomenon of bullying: picking on the weak, because they are fat or a stranger or black.”
“Psychologists could give a good, deep explanation for this,” he said, but I only say “even children do it. This is one of the vestiges of original sin; it is the work of Satan.”
The Pope told the assembly to suggested pray to the Lord “to help us overcome this cruelty,” since we are all susceptible to it.
“Pray to the Lord to give us the grace of compassion,” he concluded. “to God who has compassion on us, suffers with us and helps us move forward.”
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