Love of God and neighbor are necessary in defending oneself from the sin of idolatry and hypocrisy. This was the theme of Pope Francis’ homily this morning during Mass in the Chapel of Casa Santa Marta.
St. Paul’s first reading, spoke of those who “although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks.”
“While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes,” St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans states.
This idolatry, the Pope said, “stifles the truth of faith which reveals the justice of God.”
“But since we all need to worship – because we have the stamp of God within us – when we do not worship God, we adore creatures. And this is the passage from faith to idolatry. They, the idolaters, have no excuse: having known God, they did not glorify nor gave thanks to God. And what is the path of the idolater? It says it clearly: ‘they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened.’ The selfishness of their own thought, the omnipotent thought, that which I think is true: I think the truth, I make the truth with my thoughts.”
Although Saint Paul’s words referred to the physical adoration of statues of various creatures, Pope Francis said that in today’s world, idolatry has taken a new form not only to those outside of the Church but even within.
“Even today, there are so many idols and today there are many idolaters, so many who think themselves wise. But even among us, among Christians! I am not speaking of them, I respect them, those who are not Christian. But among us – let us speak like family – those who believe themselves wise, that know everything.”
“And they have become fools,” he continued, “and changed the glory of God who is incorruptible with an image: my own self, my ideas, my comfort. This is not just something historical – even today in the streets there are idols. All of us have some form of hidden idol. We may ask ourselves in front of God: what is my hidden idol? That which occupies the place of God!”
The Holy Father also drew a parallel between the Paul’s discourse on idolatry and Christ’s words on hypocrisy in today’s Gospel. Saint Luke’s Gospel recalled Jesus rebuke of the Pharisee who was scandalized that Jesus did not “observe the prescribed washing before the meal”
“Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil,” Jesus replied in the Gospel. “But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.”
Jesus’ response, the Pope said, calls on the Pharisee, as well as all of us ,to not judge by appearances but to go straight to the truth.
“A plate is a plate, but what is most important is what is in the plate: the meal,” the Holy Father said. “But if you are vain, if you are a careerist, if you are ambitious, if you are a person who always boasts about yourself or who likes to brag, because you think yourself perfect, give a bit of alms and that will heal you of your hypocrisy.”
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis said that the true path that Christ calls us to fight against idolatry and hypocrisy is to love both God above all else and neighbor.
“It is so simple, yet very difficult! This can only be done through grace. Let us ask for this grace,” Pope Francis said.