Pope Francis says that the exhortation Jesus makes in today’s Gospel is a warning for today, lest we think that "an exterior observance of the law is sufficient for being a good Christian."
The Pope offered this reflection today before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square. He drew his commentary from today’s Gospel, from the seventh chapter of Mark, wherein Jesus responds to a rebuke from the Pharisees by telling them, "You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition."
"With these words Jesus wants to put us on guard, today, don’t you think? [on guard against] thinking that an exterior observance of the law is sufficient for being a good Christian," the Pope said. "Just like back then for the Pharisees, there is also for us the danger of considering that all is well with us or that we’re better than the others because of the simple fact of observing certain rules or customs, even though we don’t love our neighbor, are hard of heart and proud."
"The literal observance of precepts is sterile if it doesn’t change the heart and if it is not translated into concrete attitudes: opening oneself to the encounter with God and his word, seeking justice and peace, helping the poor, the weak and the oppressed," he added.
The Holy Father observed that we have all seen the bad effects of "the scandal caused by those people who call themselves very Catholic, who frequently go to church, but then, in their daily lives, don’t take care of their families, speak ill of others, etc."
Jesus’ attention is on something deeper, he explained. Our Lord "emphasizes the primacy of the interior of the 'heart': exterior things are not what makes us holy or not holy, but rather the heart that expresses our intentions, our desires and the desire to do everything for love of God."
The Pontiff said that exterior actions are a consequence of what’s been decided already in the heart, and added that the "border between good and evil does not lie outside of us, but rather within us, in our conscience."
Pope Francis encouraged an examination of conscience: "We can ask ourselves: Where is my heart? Jesus said, your treasure is where your heart is. What is my treasure? Is it Jesus and his doctrine? My heart is good or my treasure is another thing?"
"It is the heart that we must purify and convert," he said. "Without a purified heart, we can never have truly clean hands and lips that speak sincere words of love, mercy and forgiveness."
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