Pope reminds Catholics to practice what they preach

Pope Francis greets pilgrims during his Nov 16 2016 general audience Credit Lucia Ballester CNA Pope Francis greets pilgrims during his Nov. 16, 2016, general audience. | Lucia Ballester/CNA.

The spiritual works of mercy – especially teaching the faith and putting up with the annoyances of others – are very important, Pope Francis said Wednesday, but first we must examine our own conscience to see if we are practicing the things we preach.

"The need to advise, admonish and teach should not make us feel superior to others, but first of all obliges us to return to ourselves to see if we are consistent with what we ask of others," he said Nov. 16.

"Do not forget the words of Jesus" from Luke chapter six, he said: "Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?"

The Pope's catechesis for the general audience in St. Peter's Square focused on several of the spiritual works of mercy, specifically counseling the doubtful, admonishing the sinner, instructing the ignorant, and bearing the wrongs of others patiently.

"To accompany the search for the essential is beautiful and important," he said, because it helps us to share the joy found in knowing the true meaning of life.

Often we come across people who focus on the superficial because they have not met anyone who helped them to see the truly important things in life, Francis said.

To teach someone "to look to the essentials" is important, he said, especially in a time like now, where the world seems to have "lost its bearings," and is always chasing "short-sighted satisfaction."

To help people "find out what the Lord wants from us and how we can respond to it means putting (people) on the path to grow in their vocation, the path of true joy."

Pope Francis praised catechists, who he said go to a "great effort" to help people grow in their faith, particularly mothers and religious, who "give their time to teach children."

"How much effort" they go through, he acknowledged. "Especially when the boys prefer to play rather than listen to the catechism!"

But this mission, he emphasized, can only be carried out when we assume responsibility for our own actions, as well. Particularly when we are tempted to be annoyed by the people around us, or when we complain about the shortcomings of others, such as gossiping.

In these situations, he said, the first step must be to examine our own consciences "to see if we, at times, can be annoying to others."

"It's easy to point fingers at the flaws and failings" of others, he said, "but we should learn to put ourselves in others' shoes."

Jesus is an excellent example of bearing wrongs patiently, the Pope noted. "How much patience he had to have in the three years of his public life!"

God is also merciful in bearing with our complaints. In the Book of Exodus, for example, the Israelites "are really unbearable," Francis stated. First they cry because they are slaves in Egypt, then God delivers them and they complain that there is no food in the desert.

Even after God sends quail and manna to them, they continued to complain, but he was patient with them and therefore teaches Moses, the Israelites, and all of us that an "essential dimension of faith" is to bear wrongs patiently.

"We are all very good at identifying a presence that is annoying," Pope Francis said. Frequently, it is the people closest to us such as our relatives and coworkers. "What should we do?" he asked.

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We should pray and examine our conscience, and "the Holy Spirit will help us to be patient in enduring and humble and simple in advising."

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