Don't Be 'Soap Bubble' Christians, Pope Exhorts in Morning Homily

Warns Against Vanity and Being Beautiful Only for a Second

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Drawing from the first reading’s exclamation, «Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!» Pope Francis spoke today in his morning homily about Christians’ temptation to «make themselves seen» when doing good.

During his morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis said to beware of vanity, which takes us far from the truth and makes us seem like «soap bubbles.» 

If you “do not have something substantial, you too will pass like all things.” 

Pope Francis took his cue from the Book of Ecclesiastes to dwell on vanity. Vanity is a temptation not only for the pagans but also for Christians, for “people of faith,” he said.

Jesus, he noted, often rebuked those who boasted. He told the teachers of the law that they should not “walk down the streets” with “luxurious outfits,” like “princes.” When you pray, the Lord warned, do not do it to be seen, do not pray so that people will see you; “pray in secret, go to your room.” 

You should do the same, the Pope said, when you help the poor: “Don’t sound the trumpet, do it secretly. The Father sees it, and that is enough.”

“But the vain man [says]: ‘Look, I’m giving this check for the work of the Church’ and he shows the check; then he scams the Church from the other direction. But this is what makes the vain man: he lives for appearances. ‘When you fast,’ the Lord says to this, ‘please do not be melancholy, sad, so that everyone will notice that you’re fasting. No, fast with joy; do penance with joy, so that no one will notice.’»

Vanity, the Pope warned, is «living for appearances, living to be seen.”

“Christians who live that way,” he continued, “for appearances, for vanity, seem like peacocks, they strut about like peacocks.” They are the people who say, “I am a Christian, I am to that priest, to that sister, to that bishop; my family is a Christian family.” They boast. 

But, the Pope asked, “what about your life with the Lord? How do you pray? Your life in the works of mercy, how’s that going? Do you visit the sick? Reality.” This, he added, is why “Jesus tells us we must build our house – that is, our Christian life – on the rock, on the truth.” On the other hand, Jesus warned that “the vain build their house on sand, and that house falls, that Christian life falls, slips, because it is not able to resist temptations.”

“How many Christians live for appearances?» he said. «Their life seems like a soap bubble. The soap bubble is beautiful, with all its colours! But it lasts only a second, and then what? Even when we look at some funeral monuments, we feel it’s vanity, because the truth is returning to the bare earth, as the Servant of God Paul VI said. The bare earth awaits us, this is our final truth. In the meantime, do I boast or do I do something? Do I do good? Do I seek God? Do I pray? Substantial things. And vanity is a liar, a fantasist, it deceives itself, it deceives the vain, because in the beginning he pretends to be [something], but in the end he really believes himself to be that, he believes. He believes it. Poor thing!”

And this, Francis emphasised, is what happened to the Tetrarch Herod who, as the day’s Gospel relates, asked anxiously about the identity of Jesus. 

“Vanity,” the Pope said, “sows wicked anxiety, takes away peace. It’s like those who put on too much make-up, and then are afraid the rain” will come “and all that make-up will come streaming down.” 

Vanity does not give us peace, he repeated. “Only the truth gives us peace.” 

Pope Francis said Jesus is the unique rock on which we can build our lives. “And we consider that this proposal of the devil, of the demon, also tempted Jesus to vanity in the desert,” saying to Him: “Come with me, let us go up to the temple, let us make a spectacle. Throw yourself down and everyone will believe in you.” The demon presented to Jesus “vanity on a platter.” Vanity, the Pope said, “is a particularly grave spiritual illness”:

“The Egyptian Fathers of the desert said that vanity is a temptation against which we must battle our whole life, because it always comes back to take the truth away from us. And in order to understand this they said: It’s like an onion. You take it, and begin to peel it – the onion – and you peel away vanity today, a little bit tomorrow, and your whole life you’re peeling away vanity in order to overcome it. And at the end you are pleased: I removed the vanity, I peeled the onion, but the odour remains with you on your hand. 

«Let us ask the Lord for the grace to not be vain, to be true, with the truth of reality and of the Gospel.”

Reading 1: Ecclesiastes 1:2-11

Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth,

vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!

What profit has man from all the labor

which he toils at under the sun?

One generation passes and another comes,

but the world forever stays.

The sun rises and the sun goes down;

then it presses on to the place where it rises.

Blowing now toward the south, then toward the north,

the wind turns again and again, resuming its rounds.

All rivers go to the sea,

yet never does the sea become full.

To the place where they go,

the rivers keep on going.

All speech is labored;

there is nothing one can say.

The eye is not satisfied with seeing

nor is the ear satisfied with hearing.

What has been, that will be;

what has been done, that will be done.

Nothing is new under the sun.

Even the thing of which we say, “See, this is new!”

has already existed in the ages that preceded us.

There is no remembrance of the men of old;

nor of those to come will there be any remembrance

among those who come after them.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 90

R. (1) In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.

You turn man back to dust,

saying, “Return, O children of men.”

For a thousand years in your sight

are as yesterday, now that it is past,

or as a watch of the night.

R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.

You make an end of them in their sleep;

the next morning they are like the changing grass,

Which at dawn springs up anew,

but by evening wilts and fades.

R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.

Teach us to number our days aright,

that we may gain wisdom of heart.

Return, O LORD! How long?

Have pity on your servants!

R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.

Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,

that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.

Prosper the work of our hands for us!

Prosper the work of our hands!

R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.

Gospel: Luke 9:7-9

Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening,

and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying,

“John has been raised from the dead”;

others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”;

still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.”

But Herod said, “John I beheaded.

Who then is this about whom I hear such things?”

And he kept trying to see him.

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