VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Christians either love God and their neighbor or they are hypocrites; there is no middle ground, Pope Francis said.
“Jesus says, ‘Whoever is not with me is against me.’ Well, can’t there be a compromise — a bit here and a bit there? No. Either you are on the path of love or you are on the road of hypocrisy,” he said March 12 in the homily at his early morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae where he lives.
The day’s Gospel reading, Lk 11:14-23, shows the opposition and uncertainties surrounding Jesus after he drove a demon out of a man; some accused Jesus of using the power of the devil, others stayed neutral, wanting more evidence. The day’s first reading from the Book of Jeremiah (7:23-28) recounts how God’s people choose not to listen or obey him and let their hearts be hardened by evil.
The whole history of the people of God and salvation has been marked by sin, unfaithfulness and hypocrisy, the pope said, according to Vatican Radio.
“This is the story of God. It seems like God was crying here (in the Book of Jeremiah): ‘I loved you so much, I gave you everything and you — everyone is against me,'” the pope said.
It’s what happens when people’s faith falters or vanishes, he said. “We do our will. But by doing that along life’s journey, we are following a path that hardens — the heart becomes hardened, turns to stone. And the word of God can’t get in. The people stray.”
People should ask themselves during Lent, “Do I listen to the Lord’s voice or do I do what I want, what I like?” the pope said.
When people’s hearts are hardened, they can no longer hear what God has to say, like those who accused Jesus of using the power of the devil, which, the pope said, is a typical accusation made by “legalists” or those “who believe life follows the laws they make.”
The same thing has happened in the church, the pope said, pointing to St. Joan of Arc, who was burned alive after being accused of being a heretic by “doctors” of the church who “knew solid doctrine; these Pharisees, distanced from God’s love.”
Pope Francis said another example was Blessed Antonio Rosmini, a 19th-century Italian philosopher, priest and religious-order founder whose writings had been condemned by the church until 2001, when the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — under the future Pope Benedict XVI — declared that the positions condemned more than 100 years earlier did not accurately reflect Blessed Rosmini’s thinking or beliefs.
In his homily, Pope Francis said God has always sent prophets and saints “to tell his people he loved them.” It has always been the saints, “not the powerful ones, not the hypocrites” that have “carried the life of the church forward,” he said.
Saints are people “who are not afraid to be caressed by God’s mercy. And that is why the saints are men and women who understand so much misery, so much human misery and they accompany the people close up. They do not despise the people.”
Like Jesus told the crowds after the exorcism, Christians today are told: “Either you let God’s mercy love you or you do what you want, according to your own heart, which gets harder and harder, every step on this path” of hypocrisy, the pope said.
“There is no third way of compromise. Either you’re a saint or you take another path,” Pope Francis said. “Whoever does not gather with me leaves things behind. No, it’s worse, he scatters, he ruins” and corrupts.