Pope Francis dedicated his daily homily to the virtue of charity, stressing that we shouldn't be “ashamed” to touch those who suffer, and cautioned against turning our faith into a mere ritual.
“Don’t be ashamed of the flesh of our brother, it’s our flesh! We will be judged by the way we behave towards this brother, this sister,” the Pope emphasized in his March 7 daily Mass.
Speaking to those present in the chapel of the Vatican's Saint Martha guesthouse, the pontiff began his reflections by recalling the Gospel reading, taken from Matthew, in which the Pharisees criticize Jesus and his disciples for not fasting.
This attitude of viewing the commandments as a formality and the religious life as a mere ethic contrasts with the attitude of Jesus, the Pope observed, who is not embarrassed to bend down and embrace those who suffer.
“Receiving from our Lord the love of a Father, receiving from our Lord the identity of a people and then transforming it into an ethic means we are refusing that gift of love,” he explained.
“These hypocritical people are good persons. They do all they should do. They seem good. But they are ethicists without goodness because they have lost the sense of belonging to a people!”
Calling to mind the words of Isaiah in the first reading, the Pope reminded those present that true charity or fasting is expressed by freeing the oppressed, sharing our food with the hungry, opening our houses to the homeless and clothing those who are naked, thus breaking the chains of evil.
Emphasizing that “This is the charity or fasting that our Lord wants!” Pope Francis affirmed that true charity “is concerned about the life of our brother,” and “is not ashamed – Isaiah said it himself – of the flesh of our brother.”
“Our perfection, our holiness is linked with our people where we are chosen and become part,” he noted, adding that “our greatest act of holiness relates to the flesh of our brother and the flesh of Jesus Christ.”
Continuing, the pontiff highlighted that “Our act of holiness today, here at the altar is not a hypocritical fasting: instead it means not being ashamed of the flesh of Christ which comes here today!”
The “mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ” stated the Pope, means “sharing our bread with the hungry, taking care of the sick, the elderly, those who can’t give us anything in return: this is not being ashamed of the flesh!”
Drawing attention to the figure of the Good Samaritan, the pontiff explained that the most difficult act of charity or fasting is practiced by him, who bent down to the wounded man, unlike the priest who hurried by, perhaps out of the fear of being infected.
Stating that this is the question we should ask ourselves today, the Pope challenged those in attendance, saying “Am I ashamed of the flesh of my brother and sister?”
“When I give alms, do I drop the coin without touching the hand (of the poor person, beggar)? And if by chance I do touch it, do I immediately withdraw it? When I give alms, do I look into the eyes of my brother, my sister? When I know a person is ill, do I go and visit that person? Do I greet him or her with affection?”
A sign that might help us, the Pope expressed, is another question: “Am I capable of giving a caress or a hug to the sick, the elderly, the children, or have I lost sight of the meaning of a caress?”
Concluding his homily, the pontiff noted that “these hypocrites were unable to give a caress. They had forgotten how to do it,” and warning that “we will be judged” by the way we treat our brothers and sisters.