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Be witnesses rather than legalists, preaches Pope

Pope Francis told the congregation assembled at the chapel of the St. Martha Residence in the Vatican yesterday that Christians must be witnesses for the faith, not mere legalists whose only concern is with keeping the appropriate rules. “Let us ask the Lord that these two readings help us in our lives as Christians,” the Pope said about the day’s scripture passages, "let us learn not to be pure legalists, hypocrites like the scribes and Pharisees…but to be like Jesus, with that zeal to seek the people.”

Pope Francis has called on Christians, especially those in ecclesiastical authority, to be real witnesses of the faith.
Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images

“It is Jesus himself who says that (the scribes) did not move these things even with a finger, right?” asked the Pontiff, “And then He will say to people: ‘Do what they say but not what they do!’” According to the biblical rendering of how the scribes behaved, they were "incoherent people," Francis pointed out, "these scribes and Pharisees are always beating on the regular folks."

“Jesus told them…that in this way, they closed the door to the Kingdom of Heaven, as if to say, ‘You don’t let others enter, and so neither will you yourselves gain entrance.’ This is how some people teach, preach and witness the faith…and how many people out there think that the faith really is as they present it.” The Pope noted that the initial attitude of the priest Eli in the day's first reading was rather like that of someone who simply sees themselves as a "manager" of the faith rather than one who should be giving witness as a priest. “How many times, do God's people feel themselves unloved by those who ought to give witness: by Christians – by lay faithful, by priests, by bishops.”

Jesus, however, seeks to bring healing to people, even those who have been spiritually wounded, the Pope pointed out. “Let us ask the Lord that these two readings help us in our lives as Christians,” the Pontiff preached, “let us not be corrupt like the sons of Eli, nor to be lukewarm as Eli himself,” but “to be like Jesus, with that zeal to seek the people, heal people, to love people.” The Holy Father asked that people treat others as Jesus would and in doing good for them, to turn their hearts to Christ. “‘But if I do this tiny little thing, little as I am, think about how God loves you, think about how your Father is!’ Let us ask for this grace.”

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