[Vatican Radio report on the Holy Father’s homily at the September 11 and September 10 morning Mass in his Santa Marta residence.]
Pope Francis said on Friday we must learn to not judge others or we all risk becoming hypocrites including the Pope himself. At the same time, he said, we need to have the courage to acknowledge our own faults in order to become merciful towards others. The Pope’s comments came during his homily on Friday (11th September) at the morning Mass in the Santa Marta residence.
Pope Francis’s homily was a reflection taken from St Paul’s teaching on mercy, forgiveness and the need to avoid judging others. He said the Lord speaks to us about the reward contained within this: Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned.
The Holy Father began by reflecting on the first reading from St. Paul’s 1st Letter to Timothy, in which the apostle praises God’s mercy on him despite his sins.
“I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry. I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arro-gant man, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief,” St. Paul says.
Commenting on the beauty of Paul’s words, the Holy Father explained that the first step in obtaining such humility is to accuse one’s self.
“The courage to accuse yourself, before accusing the others,” he said. “And Paul praises the Lord be-cause He chose him and gives thanks ‘because He considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry. I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man’. But there was mercy.”
Have the courage to acknowledge our own faults
“But we can say: ‘So, this is all fine, isn’t it?’ And each of us can say: ‘Yes Father, this is all fine but how can it actually be done, where does one start with this?’ And what’s the first step for going along this path?’ We see that first step in today’s first Reading, in the Gospel. The first step is to acknowledge our own faults. The courage to acknowledge this before accusing others. And Paul praises the Lord because he chose him and gives thanks because ‘he has judged me trustworthy, even though I used to be a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man.’ But this was mercy.”
Urges all, from the Pope downwards, to beware of becoming hypocrites.
Quoting from Christ’s words to take the log out of our own eye first, Pope Francis stressed that it is essential to acknowledge our own faults before we can see clearly enough “to take the splinter out of our brother’s eye.”
“And Jesus uses that word that he only uses with those who are two-faced, with two minds: ‘Hypo-crites! Hypocrite. Men and women who can’t learn how to acknowledge their own faults become hypocrites. All of them? All of them: starting from the Pope downwards: all of them. If a person isn’t able to acknowledge his or her faults and then says, if it’s necessary, who we should be telling things about other people, that person is not a Christian, is not part of this very beautiful work of reconcilia-tion, peace-making, tenderness, goodness, forgiveness, generosity and mercy that Jesus Christ brought to us.”
The Pope went on to urge us to stop ourselves in time when we are tempted to speak badly about others.
“When we get tempted to talk to people about the faults of others, we must stop ourselves. And me? And have the courage that Paul had, here: ‘I used to be a blasphemer, a persecutor, a violent man’… But how many things can we say about ourselves? Let’s refrain from comments about others and let’s comment about ourselves. And this is the first step along this path of magnanimity. Because a person who can only see the splinters in the eyes of others, falls into pettiness: a petty mind, full of pettiness, full of chatter.”
The Jesuit Pope called on the faithful to pray for the Lord’s grace of conversion and to pause before pointing out another’s defects.
“The one who only knows how to look at the speck in another’s eye, ends up in pettiness: a petty soul, full of trivialities, full of gossip,” he warned.
Pope Francis concluded his homily saying let us ask the Lord to give us the grace to follow Jesus’ advice to be generous with forgiveness and generous with mercy, adding that a person who has never spo-ken badly about others is a saint.
“To canonize a person,” he said, “there is a whole process, there is a need for a miracle and then the Church declares the person a saint. But, if a person who has never, never spoken ill of another is found, that person can be canonized immediately.”
A person who can’t forgive is not a Christian
The day before, in his Thursday morning homily, the Holy Father warned against conflicts within the Christian community. He said priests who have a problem in the struggle to be merciful should not be hearing confessions. He also reiterated his condemnation of those who produce lethal arms to be used in wars.
He said Christians must forgive and show mercy in all that they do.
He asked whether we are always able to accept the gift of peace that we receive via Jesus and la-mented the many wars, destruction, hatred and enmity that we see and read about every day on TV and in the newspapers.
“There are also many men and women who work hard — really hard – in order to manufacture lethal weapons, arms that eventually become bathed in the blood of so many innocent people, so many of them. There are wars (being waged)! There are these wars and there is also that wickedness of pre-paring for war, of making weapons (to be used) against other people in order to kill! Peace saves us, peace makes you live, it makes you grow: war annihilates you, it drags you down.”
Pope Francis went on to warn that wars can take other forms, saying they exist “within our Christian communities, between us.” He said the key word in today’s liturgy talks about forgiveness and we need to make peace among ourselves.
“If you can’t forgive, you are not a Christian. You may be a good man, a good woman…. but you are not doing what our Lord did. What’s more, if you can’t forgive, you cannot receive the peace of the Lord. And every day when we pray the ‘Our Father:’ Forgive us as we have forgiven those……It’s a condi-tion. We are trying to ‘convince’ God that we’re good, that we’re good by forgiving: in reverse. (It’s just) words, right? As that beautiful song went: ‘Words, words, words,’ wasn’t it? I think it was (the Italian singer) Mina who sung it. Words! Forgive one another! Just as the Lord has forgiven us, do like-wise.”
The Pope paid tribute to the many heroic men and women who patiently put up with so much hard-ship and injustice in order to support their families, describing them as the good people. But at the same time, he warned, there are also people who speak badly about others and make war that way. He said it was important to “understand other people, not condemn them.”
God is always merciful, he stressed and spoke of the need for priests to show mercy and forgiveness in the confessional box.
“If you are a priest and you can’t manage to be merciful, tell your bishop who will give you a job in ad-ministration but please don’t go into the confessional box! A priest who is not merciful does a lot of harm in the confessional box! He beats people up. ‘No, Father, I am merciful but I’m a bit stressed….? It’s true…. Before going to hear confessions, go to your doctor who will give you some pills to make you less stressed! But show mercy! And also show mercy among ourselves. ‘But this person did that…. What have I done?’ ‘That person is more of a sinner than me!’ Which of us can say this, that the other person is more of a sinner than me? None of us can say this! Only our Lord knows that.”
The Pope urged all of us to show feelings of kindness, goodness and humility, saying this is the Christian style, rather than being arrogant or condemning or speaking badly about others. May the Lord, he concluded, give all of us the grace to provide support to others, to forgive and be merciful, just as our Lord is merciful towards us.