During his daily Mass Pope Francis warned against those who use their faith vainly in order to obtain power or money, and prayed that all might have the grace to follow the Lord out of love.
“In the Church there are climbers, people driven by ambition! There are many of them!” the Pope stated in his May 5 daily homily, “But if you like climbing go to the mountains and climb them: it is healthier!”
Addressing those present in the chapel of the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, the Roman Pontiff centered his reflections on the day’s Gospel reading, taken from John, in which Jesus is sought out by the crowds after he had fed five thousand people with just two loaves of bread and a few fish.
Pope Francis highlighted Jesus’ response to the people when he said “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
This passage, he noted, invites us to think whether we are truly following the Lord out of love, or if we have selfish motivations such as vanity and a thirst for power or money.
Referring specifically to those in public positions who fast or give alms in order to be seen doing so, the Pope said that “This is not the right attitude. Vanity is not good, vanity causes us to slip on our pride and everything ends there.”
“So I ask myself the question: and me? How do I follow Jesus? When I do good, do I do it under the public eye, or do I do it in private?”
Going on, the pontiff noted that this also makes him think of pastors in the Church, “because a pastor who is vain does not do good to the people of God: even if he is a priest or a bishop, he does not follow Jesus if he is besotted by vanity.”
Warning against the temptation of seeking power, the Bishop of Rome observed that there are many who follow Jesus with this motivation, and that “Perhaps they do not do so with full consciousness.”
“A clear example of this is to be found in John and James, the sons of Zebedee who asked Jesus to seat them in places of honor, one on His right and one on His left in his Kingdom” he went on to say, adding that “in the Church there are climbers, people driven by ambition!”
“If you like climbing go to the mountains and climb them: it is healthier! Do not come to Church to climb! Jesus scolds people with this kind of ambitious attitude in the Church.”
Drawing attention to how it was only once the Holy Spirit came that the apostles changed, the Pope cautioned that sin still exists and that we must ask ourselves “in what way do I follow Christ?”
“Only for Him, even to the Cross, or do I do it for power? Do I use the Church, the Christian community, the parish, the diocese to gain some power?”
Pope Francis explained that there are also those who follow Jesus out of a desire for money and try “to take economic advantage of the parish, of the diocese, of their Christian community, of the hospital or the college.”
“This has been a temptation right from the beginning” the pontiff observed, pointing out that “we have heard of so many good Catholics, good Christians, friends and benefactors of the Church that – it has been revealed -- acted for personal profit.”
Lamenting how these people “presented themselves as benefactors of the Church and made money on the side,” the Roman Pontiff concluded by praying that all might have the grace to follow Jesus with pure intentions, absent of vanity, a lust for wealth, or a thirst for power.