Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican on Tuesday morning. Commenting on the readings of the day, the Holy Father offered four models of the believer, with a view to developing his reflection on the nature of Christian witness.
Pope Francis spoke of Jesus, the scribes, Eli the priest, and his two priestly sons, who were priests as well. He said that the Gospel offers an example of Jesus’ own catechetical attitude: the Lord taught as one who had authority – and not as the scribes, who, in their teaching and preaching, tended to bind people with many heavy burdens, and the poor people could not go on:
“It is Jesus himself who says that [the scribes] did not move these things even with a finger, right? And then He will say to people: ‘Do what they say but not what they do!’ [They are] incoherent people. It always seems – doesn’t it? – that these scribes and Pharisees are always beating on the [regular folks]. ‘You must do this, this and this…’ to the poor people. Jesus told them – told the scribes and Pharisees – 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.”
In the First Reading, from the Book of Samuel, Pope Francis explained that the figure of Eli, who disparages the humble lady who prays after the simple manner of the common people for the gift of a son, represents the “salesman” or “manager” of the faith – a tepid priest whose heart wasn’t really in it.
“How many times,” said Pope Francis, “do God’s people feel themselves unloved by those who ought to give witness: by Christians – by lay faithful, by priests, by bishops … ‘But [these] poor bumpkins [It. “povera gente”] do not understand anything … one needs to do a degree in theology to understand.’ Why, then, do I have some sympathy for this man, [Eli]? Because in his heart he still had the anointing, because when the woman explains her situation, Eli says, ‘Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant you what you asked for.’ The priestly anointing comes out in the end: he had hidden it inside his laziness, poor man, a lukewarm man, and it ends badly for him, poor fellow.”
Eli’s sons, explained Pope Francis, represent a third model of the witnessing believer. “They were brigands,” he said, “they were priests, but [they were also] brigands,” who chased after power and money. They exploited the people took advantage of alms, gifts – and the Lord punishes them powerfully. The Holy Father explained that the sons are figures of the corrupt Christian – like Judas – who betrays Jesus.
Then, Pope Francis went on to explain, there is the fourth model: Jesus himself, who teaches with the power and authority of his own holiness, by being close to people – to sinners especially – pardoning the adulteress and talking theology with the Samaritan woman – seeking genuinely to heal people’s wounded hearts:
“Let us ask the Lord that these two readings help us in our lives as Christians: all of us, each of us in his own place – [let us learn] not to be pure legalists, hypocrites like the scribes and Pharisees. 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, and with this to say: ‘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.”
Source: Vatican Radio