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Pope in Santa Marta: be authentic, not hypocritical when fasting and giving alms

2017-03-03

In his homily at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis spoke about forms of prayer especially common during Lent, fasting and almsgiving. He said a 'hypocritical' fast is one only to be seen by others or to feel good, but in the meantime injustices are being committed, like exploiting people.

POPE FRANCIS
"This is the same thing we do when we do not pay a just wage to our people. We take from our penance, from our prayer gestures, from fasting, from alms. We take a bribe: the tangent of vanity, for everyone to see. That is not authentic, that is hypocrisy. So when Jesus said, 'When you pray, do it in secret, when you give alms do not sound a trumpet, when you fast, do not be sad,' it is the same as if He said: 'When you do a good work, please do not pretend to be the source of this good work, it is only from the Father.'" 

He proposed that Christians meditate on the idea of a man, who after eating a 200 euro dinner, walks by a hungry person on the way home without helping. The pope said the Lord asks for a true fast in every sense. 

EXCERPTS OF PAPAL HOMILY 
"The day of readings speak of fasting, which is the penance we are asked to do in this time of Lent to get closer to the Lord. God appreciates the penitent heart, the heart that feels like a sinner and knows he is a sinner. In the first reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, God rebukes the false religious hypocrites who fast and take care of their business, while oppressing the workers and arguing 'striking with wicked fists.' On one hand they do penance, but they perform other injustices, doing 'dirty business.' The Lord, however, calls for a true fast.”

"On the other hand there is a fasting that is ‘hypocritical’ – it’s the word that Jesus uses so often – a fast that makes you see yourself as just, or makes you feel just, but in the meantime I have practiced iniquities, I am not just, I exploit the people. "‘But,’ [someone might say,] ‘I am generous, I give a good offering to the Church.’ ‘But tell me,’ [one might answer,] ‘do you pay a just wage to your help? Do you pay your employees under the table? Or do you pay according to the law so they can feed their children?''

"This is the same thing we do when we do not pay a just wage to our people. We take from our penance, from our prayer gestures, from fasting, from alms. We take a bribe: the tangent of vanity, for everyone to see. That is not authentic, that is hypocrisy. So when Jesus said, 'When you pray, do it in secret, when you give alms do not sound a trumpet, when you fast, do not be sad,' it is the same as if He said: 'When you do a good work, please do not pretend to be the source of this good work, it is only by the Father.'"

"'Is this not the fast I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, untying the thongs of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, sheltering the poor and homeless, clothing the naked when you see them, without neglecting your relatives?' We think of these words, we think in our hearts, as we fast, pray, give alms. It will also help us think what a man must feel after a dinner for which he paid 200 euros, for example. He comes home and sees a hungry person and he looks at him and keeps on walking. It will do us well to think about that."

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