23 Thousand People Came To St. Peter's Square At Noon This Sunday Photo: Vatican Media

Pope Francis Explains the Distance between Saying and Doing and the Primacy of the Exterior Over the Interior

Address on the occasion of the recitation of the Angelus on Sunday, November 5, 2023

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(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 05.11.2023).- Some 23,000 people gathered in Saint Peter’s Square on Sunday, November 5, to recite the Angelus Marian prayer with Pope Francis. As usual, his address focused on the Sunday Gospel

Here is the Holy Father’s address, translated into English from the Italian original by the Holy See.

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From the Gospel of today’s liturgy, we hear some of Jesus’ words about the Scribes and Pharisees, the religious leaders of the people. Regarding these people in authority, Jesus uses very severe words, “for they preach, but do not practice” (Matthew 23:3) and “they do all their deeds to be seen by others” (v. 5). This is what Jesus says — they preach and don’t practice and everything they do they do to be seen.



So, let us pause on these two aspects: the distance between saying and doing, and the primacy of the exterior over the interior.

The distance between saying and doing. Jesus contests the duplicity of the lives of these teachers of Israel, who claimed to teach others the Word of God and to be respected as Temple authorities.They preached one thing, but then lived another. These words of Jesus recall those of the prophets, in particular the prophet Isaiah: “This people draw near with their mouth and honour me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me” (Isaiah 29:13). This is the danger to be on guard for: duplicity of heart. We too have this danger. This duplicity of heart puts the authenticity of our witness as well as our credibility as persons and as Christians at risk.



Because of our weakness, we all experience a certain distance between what we say and what we do. But having a duplicitous heart is something else instead. It is living with “one foot on both sides of the fence” without any problem. Let us remember this, especially when we are called to exercise a role of responsibility — in life, in society or in the Church — no to duplicity! This rule is always valid for a priest, a pastoral worker, a politician, a teacher, or a parent: be committed to living first yourself what you say, what you preach to others. To be authentic teachers, we first need to be credible witnesses.

The second aspect follows as a consequence: the primacy of the exterior over the interior. In fact, living in duplicity, the Scribes and Pharisees were concerned about having to hide their inconsistency to save their outward reputation. Indeed, if the people knew what was truly in their hearts, they would have been ashamed, losing all credibility. And so, they performed works to appear righteous, to “save face,” as we say. This trick is very common — they put make-up on their faces, make-up on their life, make-up on their hearts… And these “made-up” people do not know how to live the truth.And many times, even we experience the temptation of duplicity.



Brothers and sisters, accepting this warning from Jesus, let us too ask ourselves: Do we try to practice what we preach, or do we live duplicitously? Do we say one thing and do something else? Are we concerned only about showing how impeccable we are on the outside, made-up, or do we also cultivate our interior life in sincerity of heart?

Let us turn to the Holy Virgin. May she who lived in integrity and humility of heart according to the will of God help us to become credible witnesses of the Gospel.


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