Scandals in the Church happen because there is no living relationship with God and His Word. Thus, corrupt priests, instead of giving the Bread of Life, give a poisoned meal to the holy people of God: that’s what Pope Francis affirmed in his homily Thursday morning during the Mass celebrated in the Santa Marta guesthouse.
Commenting on the day’s reading and responsorial Psalm which recount the crushing defeat of the Israelites by the Philistines, the Pope notes that the people of God at that time had forsaken the Lord. It was said that the Word of God was “uncommon” at that time. The old priest Eli was “lukewarm” and his sons “corrupt; they frightened the people and beat them with sticks.” In their battle against the Philistines, the Israelites brought with them the Ark of the Covenant, but as something “magical,” “something external.” And they are defeated: the Ark is taken from them by their enemies. There is no true faith in God, in His real presence in life:
“This passage of Scripture,” the Pope says, “makes us think about what sort of relationship we have with God, with the Word of God: is it a formal relationship? Is it a distant relationship? The Word of God enters into our hearts, changes our hearts. Does it have this power or not? Is it a formal relationship? But the heart is closed to that Word! It leads us to think of the so many defeats of the Church, so many defeats of God’s people simply because they do not hear the Lord, do not seek the Lord, do not allow themselves to be sought by the Lord! And then after a tragedy, the prayer, this one: ‘ But, Lord , what happened ? You have made us the scorn of our neighbors. The scorn and derision of those around us. You have made us the laughing stock (it: favola) among nations! All the nations shake their heads about us. ‘”
And of the scandals in the Church, Pope Francis said:
“But are we ashamed? So many scandals that I do not want to mention individually, but all of us know…We know where they are! Scandals, some who charged a lot of money…. The shame of the Church! But are we all ashamed of those scandals, of those failings of priests, bishops, laity? Where was the Word of God in those scandals; where was the Word of God in those men and in those women? They did not have a relationship with God! They had a position in the Church, a position of power, even of comfort. But the Word of God, no! ‘But, I wear a medal,’ ‘I carry the Cross ‘ … Yes, just as those bore the Ark! Without the living relationship with God and the Word of God! I am reminded of the words of Jesus about those for whom scandals come … And here the scandal hit: bringing decay (it: decadenza) to the people of God, including (it: fino alla) the weakness and corruption of the priests.”
Francis Pope concluded his homily, turning his thoughts to the people of God, saying:
“Poor people! We do not give the Bread of Life to eat; we do give – in those cases – the bread of Truth! And many times, we even offer a poisoned meal! ‘Awaken! Why do you sleep, Lord?’ Let this be our prayer! ‘Awaken! Do not reject us forever! Why do you hide Your face? Why do You forget our affliction and oppression?’ We ask the Lord that we never forget the Word of God, which is alive, so that it enters into our hearts and never to forget the holy people faithful to God who ask us to nourish and strengthen them. ”