In his daily homily Pope Francis spoke of the harm done when Christians don't practice what they preach, noting that this incoherence leads others away from the Church and often brings scandal.
“When there is no Christian coherency, and you live with this incoherence, you're giving scandal. And the Christians that are not coherent are giving scandal,” the Pope said in his Feb. 27 Mass.
Speaking to those gathered in the chapel of the Vatican's St. Martha guesthouse, the pontiff began his reflections by drawing attention to a person to whom he administered the Sacrament of Confirmation during the Mass, observing that they had “manifested the desire to be a Christian.”
“To be Christian means to bear witness to Jesus Christ,” he said, adding that to a Christian person “thinks like a Christian, feels like a Christian and acts like a Christian. And this is coherency in the life of a Christian.”
However, the pontiff noted that “if one of these things is missing, he is not a Christian, there’s something wrong, there’s a certain incoherence,” and that Christians “who ordinarily, commonly live in incoherence, do so much harm.”
Recalling the first reading taken from the book of James, the Pope drew attention to words which the apostle spoke to the people who had boasted of being Christians, but took advantage of their employees.
“‘Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.’”
When we hear these words, there are some who might think “‘But a communist has said this!’” the Pope explained, emphasizing that “No, no, the Apostle James said it! It is the Word of the Lord. It’s incoherent.”
“And when there is no Christian coherency, and you live with this incoherence, you’re giving scandal.”
Referring to the words of Jesus in the Gospel, taken from Mark, in which he says that “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me,’ even one of these brothers, these sisters that have faith, ‘it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.’”
Inconsistent Christians do “so much harm. Scandal kills,” he continued, adding that “So many times we’ve heard ‘But Father, I believe in God, but not in the Church, because you Christians say one thing and do another.'”
This attitude of “‘I believe in God, but not in you,'” comes “because of inconsistency” the Pope repeated, explaining that “If you find yourself in front of – imagine! - in front of an atheist and he tells you he doesn’t believe in God, you can read him a whole library, where it says that God exists and even proving that God exists, and he will not have faith.”
“But if in the presence of this atheist you bear coherent witness of Christian life, something will begin to work in his heart,” the pontiff observed, and “it will be your witness that he will bring this restlessness on which the Holy Spirit works.”
“It’s a grace that we all, the whole Church must ask for,” the Pope noted, explaining that prayer is necessary in order to live a coherent life, and that when we fail at this, we should ask for forgiveness.
“We are all sinners, all of us, but we all have the ability to ask for forgiveness,” the pontiff went on to say, highlighting that God “never gets tired of forgiving!”
“Have the humility to ask for forgiveness,” he concluded, “Go forward in life with Christian coherence, with the witness of one who believes in Jesus Christ, who knows that he is a sinner, but who has the courage to ask for forgiveness when he makes mistakes” and who is “afraid of giving scandal.”