Pope Francis stressed the importance to “practice what one preaches” in remarks before the Angelus on November 5, 2017, in St. Peter’s Square.
The Holy Father warned those listening in the square and via live video that “a frequent defect, in those that have authority, be it civil or ecclesiastical, is to exact from others things that, although just, they, however, don’t put into practice personally.”
The Pope reminded listeners that Jesus criticized “openly some negative behavior of the scribes and of some Pharisees.” He noted that “authority is born of good example…if it’s badly exercised, it becomes oppressive…and also leads to corruption.”
He declared that disciples of Jesus “should not seek titles of honor, of authority or of supremacy.” And he lamented that “it hurts me personally to see persons that live, psychologically, running behind the vanity of honors.”
Here is a ZENIT translation of the address Pope Francis gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
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Before the Angelus
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Today’s Gospel (Cf. Mathew 23:1-12) takes place at Jerusalem in the last days of Jesus’ life – days charged with expectations and also tensions. On one hand Jesus addresses severe criticisms to the scribes and Pharisees, and on the other He leaves important orders to Christians of all times, hence also to us.
He says to the crowds: ”The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you.” This means that they have the authority to teach what is in conformity with the law of God. However, immediately after, Jesus adds: “but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice” (v. 2-3). Brothers and sisters, a frequent defect, in those that have authority, be it civil or ecclesiastical, is to exact from others things that, although just, they, however, don’t put into practice personally. They live a double life. Jesus says: “They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger” (v. 4). This attitude is an evil exercise of authority, which instead should have its first force in fact from good example. Authority is born of good example, to help others to practice what is right and due, supporting them in trials that are met on the way of goodness. Authority is a help, however, if it’s badly exercised, it becomes oppressive, it doesn’t let a person grow and creates an atmosphere of mistrust and hostility, and also leads to corruption.
Jesus criticizes openly some negative behavior of the scribes and of some Pharisees: “They love the places of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogue, and salutations in the marketplaces” (vv. 6-7). This is a temptation that corresponds to human arrogance and it’s not always easy to overcome. It’s the attitude to live only for appearance.
Then Jesus gives orders to His disciples: ”You are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. [. . .] Neither be called ‘masters,’ for you have one master, the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant” (vv. 8-11).
We, disciples of Jesus, should not seek titles of honor, of authority or of supremacy. I tell you that it hurts me personally to see persons that live, psychologically, running behind the vanity of honors. We, disciples of Jesus, must not do this, because, among us, there must be a simple and fraternal attitude. We are all brothers and in no way must we overpower others, and look down on them. No. We are all brothers. If we have received qualities from the celestial Father, we must put them at the service of brothers, and not take advantage of them for our personal satisfaction and interest. We must not consider ourselves superior to others; modesty is essential for an existence that wishes to be in conformity with the teaching of Jesus, who was meek and humble of heart, and who came not to be served but to serve.
May the Virgin Mary, “humble and higher than any creature” (Dante, Paradise, XXXIII, 2), help us, with her maternal intercession, to shrink from pride and vanity, and to be meek and docile to the love that comes from God, for the service of our brothers and for their joy, which will also be ours.
[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
After the Angelus
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Yesterday, at Indore, India, Regina Maria Vattalil was proclaimed Blessed, Religious of the Congregation of the Franciscan Claretian Sisters, killed for her Christian faith in 1995. Sister Vattalil gave witness of Christ in love and in meekness, and she joins the long ranks of martyrs of our time. May her sacrifice be seed of faith and peace, especially in Indian soil. She was so good. She was called “the smiling Sister.”
I greet all of you, Romans and pilgrims, in particular those from Gomel in Byelorussia, the members of the “Roman Academic Center Foundation” of Madrid, the faithful of Valencia, Murcia and Torrente (Spain), and the Religious Sisters of Divine Providence, who are celebrating the 175 years of their Institute.
I greet the youth choir I Minipolifonici” of Trento – afterwards sing a bit! –, the chorals of Candiana, Maser and Bagnoli di Sopra; the participants in the Festival of Sacred Music and Art from several countries; the faithful of Altamura, of Guidonia, of Lodi and of the parish of Saint Luke in Rome.
I wish you all a good Sunday. Please, don’t forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch and goodbye!
[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester