“Why the law?” (Galatians 3:19) —Pope Francis, in his public catechesis of August 11, two weeks ago, citing St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. There St. Paul deals with this question, as Francis formulates it: “If the Holy Spirit exists, if Jesus exists who redeemed us, why the law?” With this catechesis, Francis touched off a debate with leading Jewish rabbis in Israel, who wrote to Pope Francis to express their concern
“In making the Covenant with Israel, God offered them the Torah, the Law, so they could understand his will and live in justice. We have to think that at that time, a Law like this was necessary, it was a tremendous gift that God gave his people. Why? Because at that time paganism was everywhere, idolatry was everywhere and human behaviour was a result of idolatry. Because of this, the great gift God gave his people is the law, so they could persevere.” —Pope Francis, in the same public teaching of August 11
“The Apostle explains to the Galatians that, in reality, the Covenant and the Law are not linked indissolubly – the Covenant with God and the Mosaic Law. The first element he relies on is that the Covenant established by God with Abraham was based on faith in the fulfillment of the promise and not on the observance of the Law that did not yet exist. Abraham began his journey centuries before the Law.” —Pope Francis, in the same August 11 teaching
“The Apostle writes: ‘This is what I mean: the law, which came four hundred and thirty years afterward [with Moses], does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God [with Abraham when He called him], so as to make the promise void.’” —Pope Francis, in the same teaching
“Such an argument disqualifies all those who sustain that the Mosaic Law was a constitutive part of the Covenant. No, the Covenant comes first, and the call came to Abraham. The Torah, the Law, in fact, was not included in the promise made to Abraham.” —Ibid.
“Having said this, one should not think, however, that Saint Paul was opposed to the Mosaic Law. No, he observed it. Several times in his Letters, he defends its divine origin and says that it possesses a well-defined role in the history of salvation. The Law, however, does not give life, it does not offer the fulfillment of the promise because it is not capable of being able to fulfill it. The Law is a journey, a journey that leads toward an encounter. Paul uses a word, I do not know if it is in the text, a very important word: the law is the “pedagogue” toward Christ, the pedagogue toward faith in Christ, that is, the teacher that leads you by the hand toward the encounter (cf. Gal 3:24). Those who seek life need to look to the promise and to its fulfillment in Christ.” —Ibid.
“The Law leads us to Jesus. But one of you might say to me: ‘But, Father, just one thing: does this mean that if I pray the Creed, I do not need to observe the commandments?’ No, the commandments are valid in the sense that they are ‘pedagogues’ [teachers] that lead you toward the encounter with Christ. But if you set aside the encounter with Jesus and want to go back to giving greater importance to the commandments, this was the problem of these fundamentalist missionaries who had infiltrated the Galatians to confuse them.” —Ibid.
“Against those who urged the Galatians to obey the precepts of the Law of Moses, Paul replies that the Law was always in the service of God’s Covenant with his people. The Covenant was itself based not on the observance of the Law but on faith in the fulfilment of God’s promises. Now that God has definitively fulfilled those promises in the paschal mystery of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection, those who believe in the Gospel are set free from the demands of the Law. The newness of the Christian life, then, is born of our response to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, who brings the Law to fulfilment in the new commandment of love.” —Summary of the Holy Father’s words in his public teaching of august 11, 2021, in Rome
“Convey our distress to Pope Francis.” —Rabbi Rasson Arousi, President of the Commission of the Grand Rabbinate of Israel for Dialogue with the Holy See. In the letter, the Jewish authorities said they were “worried” that what Pope Francis taught seemed to suggest that the Jewish Law is obsolete, and they asked Pope Francis for a clarification of what was said in a catechesis on August 11. In a sense, the letter was a sort of “dubium” (“doubt” or “question”) proposed by these Jewish leaders to Pope Francis. Vatican officials said they were studying the letter and considering a response
“Hypocrites are people who pretend, flatter and deceive because they live with a mask over their faces and do not have the courage to face the truth. For this reason, they are not capable of truly loving: a hypocrite does not know how to love… Hypocrisy in the Church is particularly detestable; and unfortunately, hypocrisy exists in the Church and there are many hypocritical Christians and ministers.” —Pope Francis today, August 25, two weeks after the August 11 catechesis cited in all of the quotations above, as he continued his teaching on the Letter to the Galatians
Letter #94, 2021, Wednesday, August 25: Feast of St. Louis IX, King of France (1214-1270)
The “old covenant” of the Law, and the “new covenant” of Christ
A Catholic-Jewish theological controversy was revealed today in Rome.
It had to do with remarks Pope Francis made two weeks ago, on August 11, as he commented on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.
The revelation came in a Reuters report by the agency’s Vatican correspondent, Philip Pullella.
Here below is that report.
Then, at the bottom of this letter, the complete text of three of the Pope’s recent Wednesday catecheses:
(1) Wednesday, August 11;
(2) Wednesday, August 18, and
(3) Wednesday, August 25…
…all on this topic of the relationship between the Law and Christ, between the Old Covenant (the Old Testament) and the New Covenant (the New Testament).
With a link at the very end to an interesting supplemental article. —RM
Israeli rabbis ask pope to clarify remarks on Jewish law
By Philip Pullella
August 25, 2021
Vatican City (Reuters) – Israel’s top Jewish religious authorities have told the Vatican they are concerned about comments that Pope Francis made about their books of sacred law and have asked for a clarification.
In a letter seen by Reuters, Rabbi Rasson Arousi, chair of the Commission of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel for Dialogue with the Holy See, said the comments appeared to suggest Jewish law was obsolete.
Vatican authorities said they were studying the letter and were considering a response.
Rabbi Arousi wrote a day after the pope spoke about the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, during a general audience on Aug. 11.
The Torah contains hundreds of commandments, or mitzvot, for Jews to follow in their everyday lives. The measure of adherence to the wide array of guidelines differs between Orthodox Jews and Reform Jews.
At the audience, the pope, who was reflecting on what St. Paul said about the Torah in the New Testament, said: “The law (Torah) however does not give life.
“It does not offer the fulfilment of the promise because it is not capable of being able to fulfil it … Those who seek life need to look to the promise and to its fulfilment in Christ.”
Rabbi Arousi sent the letter on behalf of the Chief Rabbinate – the supreme rabbinic authority for Judaism in Israel – to Cardinal Kurt Koch, whose Vatican department includes a commission for religious relations with Jews.
“In his homily, the pope presents the Christian faith as not just superseding the Torah; but asserts that the latter no longer gives life, implying that Jewish religious practice in the present era is rendered obsolete,” Arousi said in the letter.
“This is in effect part and parcel of the ‘teaching of contempt’ towards Jews and Judaism that we had thought had been fully repudiated by the Church,” he said.
Relations between Catholics and Jews were revolutionised in 1965, when the Second Vatican Council repudiated the concept of collective Jewish guilt for the death of Jesus and began decades of inter-religious dialogue. Francis and his two predecessors visited synagogues.
Two leading Catholic scholars of religious relations with Jews agreed that the pope’s remarks could be seen as a troublesome setback and needed clarification.
“To say that this fundamental tenet of Judaism does not give life is to denigrate the basic religious outlook of Jews and Judaism. It could have been written before the Council,” said Father John Pawlikowski, former director of the Catholic-Jewish Studies Program at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.
“I think it’s a problem for Jewish ears, especially because the pope’s remarks were addressed to a Catholic audience,” said Professor Philip Cunningham, director of the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.
“It could be understood as devaluing Jewish observance of the Torah today,” Cunningham said.
Arousi and Pawlikowski said it was possible that a least part of the pope’s teaching homily, known as a catechesis, was written by aides and that the phrase was not properly vetted.
Koch’s office said on Wednesday he had received the letter, was “considering it seriously and reflecting on a response.”
Francis has had a very good relationship with Jews. While still archbishop in native Buenos Aires, he co-wrote a book with one of the city’s rabbis, Abraham Skorka, and has maintained a lasting friendship with him.
In his letter to Cardinal Koch, Arousi asked him to “convey our distress to Pope Francis” and asked for a clarification from the pope to “ensure that any derogatory conclusions drawn from this homily are clearly repudiated.”
[End, Reuters report]
The controversy was also mentioned today in the widely followed Il Sismografo blog, here:
Judaism authorities in Israel ask the Holy Father for clarification on some of the statements made in the catechesis of 11 August focusing on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (link)
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Here are the last three papal Wednesday audience teachings:
(1) Pope Francis: Catechesis of Wednesday, August 11, 2021
Paul VI Audience Hall
Wednesday, 11 August 2021
Catechesis on the Letter to the Galatians: 4. The Mosaic Law
Brothers and sisters, good morning!
“Why the law?” (Gal 3:19). This is the question that we want to deepen today, continuing with Saint Paul, to recognize the newness of the Christian life enlivened by the Holy Spirit. But if the Holy Spirit exists, if Jesus exists who redeemed us, why the law?
And this is what we must reflect on today.
The Apostle writes: “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Gal 5:18). Instead, Paul’s detractors sustained that the Galatians had to follow the Law to be saved. They were going backward.
They were nostalgic for times gone by, of the times before Jesus Christ.
The Apostle is not at all in agreement. These were not the terms he had agreed on with the other Apostles in Jerusalem. He remembers very well Peter’s words when he said: “Why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10).
The dispositions that had emerged in that ‘first council’ – the first ecumenical council was the one that took place in Jerusalem – and the dispositions that emerged were very clear.
They said: “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us [the apostles] to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols [that is, idolatry] and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity” (Acts 15:28-29). Some of the things touched on worshiping God, and idolatry, and some things regarding the way of understanding life at that time.
When Paul speaks about the Law, he is normally referring to the Mosaic Law, the law given by Moses, the Ten Commandments. It was in relationship to, it was on the way, it was a preparation, it was related with the Covenant that God had established with his people.
According to various Old Testament texts, the Torah – that is, the Hebrew term used to indicate the Law – is the collection of all those prescriptions and norms the Israelites had to observe by virtue of the Covenant with God. An effective synthesis of what the Torah is can be found in this text of Deuteronomy, that says this: “The Lord will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (30:9-10).
So, the observance of the Law guaranteed to the people the benefits of the Covenant and guaranteed a particular bond with God. This people, this population, this person, they are connected with God and they make it seen, this union with God, in the fulfillment, in the observance of the Law.
In making the Covenant with Israel, God offered them the Torah, the Law, so they could understand his will and live in justice. We have to think that at that time, a Law like this was necessary, it was a tremendous gift that God gave his people. Why?
Because at that time paganism was everywhere, idolatry was everywhere and human behaviour was a result of idolatry. Because of this, the great gift God gave his people is the law, so they could persevere.
Several times, especially in the prophetic books, it is noted that not observing the precepts of the Law constituted a real betrayal of the Covenant, provoking God’s wrath as a consequence. The connection between the Covenant and the Law was so close that the two realities were inseparable. The Law is the way a person, a people express that they are in covenant with God.
So, in light of all this, it is easy to understand how well those missionaries who had infiltrated the Galatians found such fair game by sustaining that adhering to the Covenant also included observing the Mosaic Law as it was done at that time.
Nevertheless, precisely regarding this point, we can discover Saint Paul’s spiritual intelligence and the great insights he expressed, sustained by the grace he received for his evangelizing mission.
The Apostle explains to the Galatians that, in reality, the Covenant and the Law are not linked indissolubly – the Covenant with God and the Mosaic Law. The first element he relies on is that the Covenant established by God with Abraham was based on faith in the fulfillment of the promise and not on the observance of the Law that did not yet exist.
Abraham began his journey centuries before the Law.
The Apostle writes: “This is what I mean: the law, which came four hundred and thirty years afterward [with Moses], does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God [with Abraham when he called him], so as to make the promise void”.
This word is very important.
The people of God, we Christians, we journey through life looking toward a promise, the promise is what attracts us, it attracts us to move forward toward the encounter with the Lord. “For if the inheritance is by the law, it is no longer by promise [that came before the Law, the promise to Abraham]; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise” (Gal 3:17-18), then the Law came four hundred and thirty years after.
With this reasoning, Paul reached his first objective: the Law is not the basis of the Covenant because it came later, it was necessary and just, but prior to that there was the promise, the Covenant.
Such an argument disqualifies all those who sustain that the Mosaic Law was a constitutive part of the Covenant.
No, the Covenant comes first, and the call came to Abraham.
The Torah, the Law, in fact, was not included in the promise made to Abraham.
Having said this, one should not think, however, that Saint Paul was opposed to the Mosaic Law.
No, he observed it. Several times in his Letters, he defends its divine origin and says that it possesses a well-defined role in the history of salvation.
The Law, however, does not give life, it does not offer the fulfillment of the promise because it is not capable of being able to fulfill it.
The Law is a journey, a journey that leads toward an encounter.
Paul uses a word, I do not know if it is in the text, a very important word: the law is the “pedagogue” toward Christ, the pedagogue toward faith in Christ, that is, the teacher that leads you by the hand toward the encounter (cf. Gal 3:24). Those who seek life need to look to the promise and to its fulfillment in Christ.
Dear brothers and sisters, this first exposition of the Apostle to the Galatians presents the radical newness of the Christian life: all those who have faith in Jesus Christ are called to live in the Holy Spirit, who liberates from the Law and, at the same time, brings it to fulfillment according to the commandment of love.
This is very important. The Law leads us to Jesus.
But one of you might say to me: “But, Father, just one thing: does this mean that if I pray the Creed, I do not need to observe the commandments?” No, the commandments are valid in the sense that they are “pedagogues” [teachers] that lead you toward the encounter with Christ. But if you set aside the encounter with Jesus and want to go back to giving greater importance to the commandments, this was the problem of these fundamentalist missionaries who had infiltrated the Galatians to confuse them.
May the Lord help us to journey along the path of the commandments but looking toward the love of Christ, with the encounter with Christ, knowing that the encounter with Jesus is more important than all of the commandments.
I cordially greet the English-speaking faithful. As we prepare to celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I entrust you and your families to her maternal intercession, that she may guide us on our pilgrim way to the fullness of Christ’s promises. May God bless you!
Summary of the Holy Father’s words:
Dear Brothers and Sisters, in our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, we have seen the Apostle insist on the newness of the Christian life, thanks to the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
Against those who urged the Galatians to obey the precepts of the Law of Moses, Paul replies that the Law was always in the service of God’s Covenant with his people.
The Covenant was itself based not on the observance of the Law but on faith in the fulfilment of God’s promises.
Now that God has definitively fulfilled those promises in the paschal mystery of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection, those who believe in the Gospel are set free from the demands of the Law.
The newness of the Christian life, then, is born of our response to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, who brings the Law to fulfilment in the new commandment of love.
(2) Pope Francis: Catechesis of Wednesday, August 18, 2021
Paul VI Audience Hall
Wednesday, 18 August 2021
Catechesis on the Letter to the Galatians: 5. The propedeutic value of the Law
Brothers and sisters, good morning!
Saint Paul, who loved Jesus and had clearly understood what salvation was, taught us that the “children of the promise” (Gal 4:28) — that is all of us, justified by Jesus Christ — are not bound by the Law, but are called to the demanding life-style of the freedom of the Gospel.
The Law however exists.
But it exists in another way: the same Law, the Ten Commandments, but in another way, because it could no longer be justified by itself once the Lord Jesus had come.
And therefore, in today’s catechesis I would like to explain this.
And we ask: what, according to the Letter to the Galatians, is the role of the Law?
In the passage we heard, Paul says that the Law was like a pedagogue. It is a beautiful image, that of the pedagogue we spoke about during the last audience, an image that deserves to be understood in its correct meaning.
The Apostle seems to suggest to Christians that they divide the history of salvation into two parts, and also his personal story.
There are two periods: before becoming believers in Christ Jesus and after receiving the faith.
At the centre is the event of Jesus’ death and resurrection, which Paul preached in order to inspire faith in the Son of God, the source of salvation, and in Christ Jesus we are justified.
Therefore, starting from faith in Christ there is a “before” and an “after” with regard to the Law itself, because the Law exists, the Commandments exist, but there is one attitude before the coming of Jesus, and another one afterwards.
The previous history is determined by being “under the Law”.
And those who followed the path of the Law were saved, they were justified; the subsequent one, after the coming of Jesus, is to be lived by following the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal 5:25).
This is the first time that Paul uses this expression: to be “under the Law”. The underlying meaning implies the idea of a negative servitude, typical of slaves: to be “under”.
The Apostle makes it explicit by saying that when one is “under the Law” it is as if one is “watched” and “locked up”, a kind of preventive custody.
This period, Saint Paul says, has lasted a long time — from Moses, to the coming of Jesus — and is perpetuated as long as one lives in sin.
The relationship between the Law and sin will be explained in a more systematic way by the Apostle in his Letter to the Romans, written a few years after the one to the Galatians.
In summary, the Law leads to the definition of the transgression and to making people aware of their own sin: “You have done this, and so the Law — the Ten Commandments — say this: you are in sin”.
Indeed, as common experience teaches, the precept ends up stimulating the transgression.
In the Letter to the Romans he writes: “While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive” (Rom 7:5-6).
Why? Because the justification of Jesus Christ has come.
Paul succinctly expresses his vision of the Law: “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law” (1 Cor 15:56).
A dialogue: you are under the law, and you are there with the door open to sin.
In this context, the reference to the pedagogical role played by the law makes total sense. But the Law is the pedagogue that leads you where?
In the school system of antiquity, the pedagogue did not have the function we attribute to him today, namely that of supporting the education of a boy or a girl. At the time he was instead a slave whose task was to accompany the master’s son to the teacher and then bring him home again. He was thus to protect him from danger and watch over him to ensure he did not behave badly. His function was rather disciplinary. When the boy became an adult, the pedagogue ceased his duties. The pedagogue to whom Paul refers was not the teacher, but the one who accompanied his ward to school, who watched over the boy and brought him back home.
Referring to the Law in these terms enables Saint Paul to clarify the role it played in the history of Israel.
The Torah, that is, the Law, was an act of magnanimity by God towards his people.
After the election of Abraham, the other great act was the Law: laying down the path to follow.
It certainly had restrictive functions, but at the same time it had protected the people, it had educated them, disciplined them and supported them in their weakness, especially by protecting them from paganism; there were many pagan attitudes in those times.
The Torah says: “There is only one God and He has set us on our way”.
An act of goodness by the Lord.
And certainly, as I said, it had restrictive functions, but at the same time it had protected the people, had educated them, had disciplined them and it had supported them in their weakness.
And this is why the Apostle goes on to describe the minor age.
And he says: “The heir, as long as he is a child, is no better than a slave, though he is the owner of all the estate; but he is under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; when we were children, we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe” (Gal 4: 1-3).
Hence, the Apostle’s conviction is that the Law certainly possesses a positive function — as a pedagogue moving forward — but it is a function that is limited in time.
Its duration cannot be extended too far because it is linked to the maturation of individuals and their choice of freedom.
Once one has come to faith, the Law exhausts its propaedeutic value and must give way to another authority.
What does this mean? That after the Law we can say, “We believe in Jesus Christ and do what we want”?
No! The Commandments exist, but they do not justify us.
What justifies is Jesus Christ.
The Commandments must be observed, but they do not give us justice; there is the gratuitousness of Jesus Christ, the encounter with Jesus Christ that freely justifies us.
The merit of faith is receiving Jesus.
The only merit: opening the heart.
So what do we do with the Commandments? We must observe them, but as an aid to the encounter with Jesus Christ.
This teaching on the value of the law is very important, and deserves to be considered carefully so as not to fall into misunderstandings and take false steps.
It will do us good to ask ourselves whether we still live in the period in which we need the Law, or if instead we are fully aware of having received the grace of becoming children of God so as to live in love.
How do I live?
In the fear that if I do not do this, I will go to hell?
Or do I live with that hope too, with that joy of the gratuitousness of salvation in Jesus Christ?
It is a good question.
And also a second one: do I scorn the Commandments?
No. I observe them, but not as absolutes, because I know that it is Jesus Christ who justifies me.
Summary of the Holy Father’s words:
Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the Letter to the Galatians, we have seen how Saint Paul teaches that faith in Jesus Christ brings a spiritual freedom that liberates believers from the demands of the Mosaic Law. For the Apostle, the Law served a “pedagogical” function; as a merciful gift of God, it demanded obedience to his commandments, while at the same time pointing to the reality of our sinfulness and need for salvation. With the coming of Christ and his redeeming grace, the Law finds its fulfilment in the Gospel message of new life and freedom in the Spirit.
(3) Pope Francis: Catechesis of Wednesday, August 25, 2021 (today)
Paul VI Audience Hall
Wednesday, 25 August 2021
Catechesis on the Letter to the Galatians: 6. The dangers of the Law
Brothers and sisters, good morning!
The Letter to the Galatians reports a rather surprising fact.
As we have heard, Paul says that he reproached Cephas, or Peter, in front of the community at Antioch, since his behaviour was not that good.
What had happened that was so serious that Paul felt obliged to address Peter in such harsh terms?
Perhaps Paul was exaggerating, allowing his character to get in the way without knowing how to control himself?
We will see that this is not the case, but that, yet again, what was at stake was the relationship between the Law and freedom.
And we must return to this often.
Writing to the Galatians, Paul deliberately mentions this episode that had taken place the year before in Antioch.
He wanted to remind the Christians of that community that they were absolutely not to listen to those who were preaching that it was necessary to be circumcised, and therefore be “under the Law” with all of its prescriptions.
We recall that these fundamentalistic preachers had gone there and were creating confusion, and had even robbed that community of their peace.
The object of criticism regarding Peter was his behaviour when sitting down to table.
For a Jew, the Law prohibited eating with non-Jews.
But Peter himself, in another circumstance, had gone to the house of Cornelius the centurion in Caesarea, knowing that he was transgressing the Law.
He thus affirmed: “God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:28).
Once he returned to Jerusalem, the circumcised Christians, who were faithful to the Mosaic Law, reproached Peter for his behaviour.
He, however, justified himself saying: “And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” (Acts 11:16-17).
We remember that the Holy Spirit had come at that time into Cornelius’ house when Peter went there.
Something similar had also taken place in Antioch in Paul’s presence.
First, Peter had been eating with the Christians of pagan origin without any difficulty; however, when some circumcised Christians from Jerusalem arrived in the city – those who were originally Jews – he then no longer did so, because he did not want to incur their criticism.
And this – be careful – his error was that of paying more attention to criticism, of making a good impression.
This was serious in Paul’s eyes, because other disciples imitated Peter, especially Barnabas, who had even evangelised the Galatians (cf. Gal 2:13).
In so doing, without wanting to, Peter, who was a bit here and a bit there, not clear, not transparent, was, in fact, creating an unjust division within the community: “I am pure…I am following this line…I have to do this…this cannot be done…”
In his reproach – and this is the heart of the problem – Paul uses a term that allows us to enter into the merit of his reaction hypocrisy (cf. Gal 2:13).
This is a word that is repeated a few times: hypocrisy.
I think we all understand what it means….
The observance of the Law on the part of Christians led to this hypocritical behaviour that the apostle wanted to counter forcefully and convincingly.
Paul was upright, he had his defects – many of them…his character was terrible – but he was upright.
What is hypocrisy?
When we say, “Be careful, that person is a hypocrite”, what are we trying to say?
What is hypocrisy?
It can be called the fear of the truth.
A hypocrite is afraid of the truth.
It is better to pretend rather than be yourself.
It is like putting makeup on the soul, like putting makeup on your behaviour, putting makeup on how to proceed: this is not the truth.
“No, I am afraid of proceeding like I am…”, I will make myself look good through this behaviour.
To pretend suffocates the courage to openly say what is true; and thus, the obligation to say the truth at all times, everywhere and in spite of anything can easily be escaped.
Pretending leads to this: to half-truths.
And half-truths are a sham because the truth is the truth or it is not the truth.
Half-truths are a way of acting that is not true.
We prefer, as I said, to pretend rather than to be ourselves, and this pretence suffocates the courage to openly say the truth.
And thus, we escape the duty – that this is a commandment: to always speak the truth; to be truthful: to speak the truth everywhere and in spite of anything.
And in an environment where interpersonal relations are lived under the banner of formalism, the virus of hypocrisy easily spreads.
That smile that looks like this, that does not come from the heart.
To seem to be on good terms with everyone, but with no one.
In the Bible, there are several examples where hypocrisy is contested.
A beautiful testimony to counter hypocrisy is that of the elderly Eleazar who was asked to pretend to eat meat sacrificed to the pagan deities in order to save his own life: to pretend that he was eating it when he was not eating it.
Or to pretend he was eating pork but his friends would have prepared something else.
But that God-fearing man – who was not a twenty-year-old – replied: “Such pretence is not worthy of our time of life, lest many of the young should suppose that Eleazar in his ninetieth year has gone over to an alien religion, and through my pretence [because of my hypocrisy], for the sake of living a brief moment longer, they should be led astray because of me, while I defile and disgrace my old age” (2 Mac 6:24-25).
An honest man: he did not choose the path of hypocrisy!
What a beautiful episode to reflect on to distance ourselves from hypocrisy!
The Gospels, too, report several situations in which Jesus strongly reproaches those who appear just externally, but who internally are filled with falsity and iniquity (cf. Mt 23:13-29).
If you have some time today, pick up the twenty-third chapter of the Gospel of Matthew and see how many times Jesus says: “hypocrites, hypocrites, hypocrites”, this is how hypocrisy manifests itself.
Hypocrites are people who pretend, flatter and deceive because they live with a mask over their faces and do not have the courage to face the truth.
For this reason, they are not capable of truly loving: a hypocrite does not know how to love.
They limit themselves to living out of egoism and do not have the strength to show their hearts transparently.
There are many situations in which hypocrisy is at work.
It is often hidden in the work place where someone appears to be friends with their colleagues while, at the same time, stabbing them in the back due to competition.
In politics, it is not unusual to find hypocrites who live one way in public and another way in private.
Hypocrisy in the Church is particularly detestable; and unfortunately, hypocrisy exists in the Church and there are many hypocritical Christians and ministers.
We should never forget the Lord’s words: “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (Mt 5:37).
Brothers and sisters, today, let us think about the hypocrisy that Paul condemns, and that Jesus condemns: hypocrisy.
And let us not be afraid to be truthful, to speak the truth, to hear the truth, to conform ourselves to the truth, so we can love.
A hypocrite does not know how to love.
To act other than truthfully means jeopardising the unity of the Church, that unity for which the Lord Himself prayed. Thank you.
I cordially greet the English-speaking faithful. I pray that this period of summer holidays will be a time of refreshment and spiritual renewal for you and your families. Upon all of you I invoke the joy and peace of the Lord Jesus. May God bless you!
Yesterday, in Tokyo, the Paralympic Games got underway. I send my greetings to the athletes and I thank them because they offer everyone a witness of hope and courage. They, in fact, manifest how being committed to sports helps overcome apparently insurmountable difficulties.
Summary of the Holy Father’s words:
Dear brothers and sisters, in our continuing catechesis on the Letter to the Galatians, we have seen how Paul teaches that those living in the grace of Christ are set free from the demands of the Mosaic Law.
Today we consider Paul’s claim that he had reprimanded Saint Peter in this regard. Peter had taken meals with Gentile Christians, but ceased to do so when a group of circumcised Christians arrived from Jerusalem.
For Paul, this was a form of “hypocrisy” (Gal 2:13) that caused division in the community.
All hypocrisy is born of a fear that holds us back from speaking the full truth; it leads to a life of pretense, where we say one thing but do another. Hypocrisy spreads like a virus.
We find it often in our workplaces, in political life and, most detestably, in the Church itself. Jesus told us to let our yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no” (cf. Mt 5:37). To act otherwise is to jeopardize the very unity within the Church for which the Lord himself prayed.
In this context, for those who may wish to have an additional perspective on the dialogue between Judaism and the Catholic Church, here is a link to an article by Ryan Jones published in Israel Today more than a year ago, on March 18, 2020, entitled “Rabbis Praise Pope, Demand Return of Temple Menorah” and subtitled “Pope says Jews got Shabbat right, rabbis urge him to aid building of Third Temple.” (link)
Note: Below are links to purchase a copy of my book on Archbishop Viganò, and to support our “Friends of Lebanon” project. Any support would be gratefully received, and would be very helpful. Thank you, and best wishes to all. —Robert