Pope Francis on Tuesday urged Christians to be truthful, warning them against the temptations of hypocrisy and flattery. His words came during the homily at morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta.
Hypocrisy – Pope Francis said – is not the language of Jesus, nor is it the language of Christians, in fact, he said, “the hypocrite is capable of destroying a community”.
The Pope explained that Jesus often uses the adjective “hypocrite” to describe the doctors of the law, because, as the etymology of the word illustrates, they claim to have higher standards or more noble beliefs than is the case, they proffer their opinions and issue judgement’s but in reality they are false.
And reflecting on the Gospel reading of the day, the Pope said “The hypocrite always uses language to flatter” just as some Pharisees and Herodians who tried to ensnare Jesus in his speech.
“Hypocrites – Francis said – always begin with adulation, “exaggerating the truth, feeding into one’s vanity” and he recalled the case of a priest he met a long time ago whom, he said, “drank-up all the flattery; that, he said, was his weakness”.
Jesus makes us see reality which is the opposite of hypocrisy and ideology
Flattery, the Pope said, is triggered by “bad intentions” as in the case of the doctors of the law in today’s liturgical reading. They put Jesus to the test, flattering him first and then asking him a question with the intention of making him fall into the wrong: “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”
“The hypocrite, Francis said, is two-faced, but Jesus knew their hypocrisy and said: ‘Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.’ Jesus always responds to hypocrites and ideologists with reality: ‘this is the reality; everything else is either hypocrisy or ideology’. In this case he said: ‘bring me a coin’, and he answered with the wisdom of the Lord: ‘Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – the reality was that the coin carried the image of Caesar – and to God what belongs to God’.”
The third aspect, the Pope continued “is that the language of hypocrisy is the language of deceit, it is the same language the serpent used with Eve.”
It begins with flattery, he said, and ends up destroying people: “it tears to pieces the personality and the soul of a person. It destroys communities”.
Hypocrisy destroys communities and hurts the Church
“Hypocrisy is so bad for the Church” the Pope said with a warning to all those Christians who fall into this sinful and destructful attitude.
“The hypocrite is capable of destroying a community. While speaking gently, he ruinously judges a person. He is a killer” he said.
Pope Francis concluded exhorting the faithful to remember that the only way to respond to flattery is with truth; the only way to respond to ideology is with reality.
“Let us ask the Lord to guard us from this vice, to help us be truthful, and if this is not possible to keep silent – but never to be a hypocrite” he said.