As we embark upon the Lenten season, Pope Francis says being a good person and helping your neighbor is ‘true fasting’
According to Vatican Radio, the Pope stressed this to faithful during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, drawing from today’s readings which speak about fasting, “about the penance that we are called to do in this time of Lent,” in order to draw closer to the Lord.
Francis pointed out that as is said in the Psalm, God delights in the “contrite heart … the heart of one who feels himself a sinner, who knows he is a sinner.”
While the Lord calls us to a true fast, where we are attentive to our neighbor, Francis called out those who ‘false fast,’ i.e mix religiosity with un-Christian behaviors.
“There is a fasting that is ‘hypocritical,’” Francis said, recalling, “it’s the word that Jesus uses so often – a fast that makes you see yourself as just, or makes you feel just, but in the meantime I have practiced iniquities, I am not just, I exploit the people.”
“‘But,’ [someone might say,] ‘I am generous, I give a good offering to the Church.’
“‘But tell me,’ [one might answer,] ‘do you pay a just wage to your help? Do you pay your employees under the table? Or, as the law demands, [enough] so that they are able to feed their children?’”
Francis recalled something that happened to Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe, when he was a missionary in Japan right after the second World War. For his evangelical activities, a wealthy businessman gave him a donation, but brought with him a photographer and a journalist. The envelope contained just ten dollars.
“This is the same as what we do when we do not pay a just wage to our people. We take from our penances, from our acts of prayer, of fasting, of almsgiving… we take a bribe: the bribe of vanity, the bribe of being seen.
This, the Jesuit Pope lamented, is not authentic, but is hypocrisy.
“So when Jesus says, ‘When you pray, do it in secret; when you give alms, don’t sound a trumpet; when you fast do not be sad,” it is the same as if He had said: ‘Please, when you do a good work, don’t take the bribe of this good work, it is only for the Father.’”
Francis quoted the passage from Isaiah where the Lord tells the hypocrites about true fasting, saying that today, it seems these words are being spoken to us:
“‘This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.’
Pope Francis concluded, urging: “Let us think on these words, let us think in our own hearts, how do we fast, pray, give alms?
“And it would help us,” he said, to think about how we would feel about a man who, after a meal that cost 200 euros, for example, returns home and sees someone hungry, and doesn’t look at him and keeps walking. It would do us good to think about that.”