Christians should be on guard from becoming hypocrites, corrupt or lukewarm. This was Pope Francis’ warning during his homily today at Casa Santa Marta.
Drawing from today’s reading’s, the Holy Father presented four models of believers: Jesus, the scribes, the priest Eli and his two sons, who were also priests.
“The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes,” today’s Gospel from Mark stated. The Holy Father said that this statement reflected the preaching style of the scribes who seldom practiced what they preached.
In his manner of preaching, Jesus showed that if preached that way ”you will close the door to the Kingdom of Heaven. You do not let them enter, and neither will you enter!’”
Christ’s manner of preaching “is a way, a style of preaching, of teaching, of giving witness to one’s own faith.”
The Pope then reflected on the first reading, from the First Book of Samuel, which recalled Eli’s encounter with Anna, who was praying in the Temple for a son. Eli, the Holy Father said, “is a poor priest, weak, lukewarm who allowed his sons to do so many awful things.”
Upon seeing Anna pray as ”humble people pray; simple but from the heart, with anguish”, Eli admonishes her at first, thinking that she was drunk.
Eli, the Pope observed, “is the representative of faith, the leader of faith, but his heart was not well and he rejects that woman.”
“How many times the people of God do not feel loved by those who should give witness: by Christians, by lay Christians, by priests, by bishops,” he continued. Despite his lukewarm faith and laziness, the Holy Father said that Eli’s priestly anointing comes through and gives Anna a word of hope.” However, things do not turn out well for the old man later on in his life.
Describing Eli’s sons as “thieves”, the Pope explained that they “went after power, after money, they exploited people, they took advantage of the alms, of the gifts, and the Lord punishes them strongly.”
“They are the representation of the corrupt Christian, of the corrupt laymen, of the corrupt priest, of the corrupt bishops, who takes advantage of his situation, of his privilege of faith, of being Christian and his heart ends up becoming corrupt.” That heart, he explained, is the same heart of Judas, who due to his corrupt heart, betrays Jesus.”
As the final Christian model, the Holy Father said that Jesus brings with him the power of sanctity that comes with the word of God, the love of God to each and every one of us.
“Jesus forgives the adulteress, he speaks of theology with the Samaritan. Jesus searches the heart of the person, Jesus approaches the wounded heart of people. Jesus is only interested in the person.”
This manner of preaching, however, is not a new teaching, the 77 year old Pontiff stressed. “No, it is not a new teaching: it is a new way of doing it. It is the evangelical transparency.”
Concluding his homily, the Holy Father prayed that the readings help us in our Christian lives, to not be legalists, corrupt or lukewarm, but rather to be like Jesus, with the zeal to search for, heal and love people.
“This is the new teaching that God asks from us. Let us ask for this grace,” he said. (J.A.E.)