Faith is not only a “cosmetic” matter, but one of active charity, says Pope Francis.
The Pope said this today in his morning homily at the Casa Santa Marta, reported Vatican Radio. He drew from the Gospel reading of the day (Lk. 11:37-41), in which St. Luke recounts the story of Our Lord’s dinner visit to the house of a Pharisee, where he stuns his host when he omits the standard ritual ablutions.
Pope Francis stressed Christ’s unsparing rejoinder:
“Jesus condemns this cosmetic spirituality, [which attempts to] look good, beautiful – but the truth inside is something else. Jesus condemns the people of good manners but of bad habits, those habits that are not seen, but practiced in secret. Everything seems in place: these people who liked to walk in the streets, to be seen praying …
“You see that there are two adjectives he uses here, [distinct], but related: greed and wickedness.”
Jesus will call these Pharisees “whitewashed sepulchres” in the Gospel according to Matthew. Here, he invites them rather to give alms, which in Biblical tradition – in both the Old Testament and the New – is a touchstone and paragon of justice. Such works of charity are essential, he explained, for, howsoever important it might be, “the law on its own does not save”:
“That, which avails, is faith – which faith? That, ‘which worketh by love’ – [this is] the same thing Jesus said to the Pharisee: a faith that is not merely reciting the Creed – we all believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, eternal life. We all believe! This, however, is a [static] faith, not one that is ‘at work’. That, which in Christ Jesus avails, is the hard work that comes from faith, or rather the faith that works through charity – that is, the faith that returns to almsgiving – almsgiving in the broadest sense of the word: of detaching oneself from the dictatorship of money, from the idolatry of lucre. Every disordered desire distances us from Jesus Christ.”
Pope Francis went on to recall an episode in the life of his late confrére, Jesuit Father Arrupe, Superior General of the Jesuits from the 60s to the 80s.
One day, explained the Holy Father, a rich lady invited him someplace to give him money for the missions in Japan, to which Fr. Arrupe was committed. She handed over the envelope on the doorstep of a building, right on the street, before reporters and photographers, and Fr. Arrupe said he had suffered a “great humiliation,” but he had accepted the money, “for the poor people of Japan.” When he opened the envelope, there were $10 inside.
“Jesus offers us this advice: ‘Do not sound the trumpet’. The second piece of advice: ‘Do not give only of your excess’ – and He is speaking to us of that old woman who gave everything she had to live on, and He praises that woman for having done it – and she did it half-secretly, for she was ashamed not to be able to give more.”