In his homily, the pope spoke about the “elite” doctors of the law, the Pharisees, who hear the words of Jesus but do not believe.
As recounted by St. John in the day’s Gospel, after hearing Jesus, the crowd was divided: some believed he was the Christ and others did not.
After Jesus spoke, “each went to his own house,” the pope quoted from the Gospel, noting that “after the discussion and all of this, each returned to his own convictions.”
But the Pharisees feel “contempt for Jesus” and “contempt for the people, ‘those people,’ who are ignorant, who know nothing,” Francis recounted.
“The holy faithful people of God believe in Jesus, follow him,” he said, “and this group of elites, the doctors of the Law, separate themselves from the people and do not receive Jesus.”
Pope Francis drew a comparison between this attitude of the Pharisees and clericalism today – explaining that this clericalism can impact the Church during the coronavirus outbreak.
He said he has recently heard some criticism of healthy religious sisters and priests who are taking food to the poor, that they are putting themselves at risk of catching COVID-19.
Some people say, he continued, that he should “tell the mother superior to not let the sisters go out, tell the bishop to not let the priests go out!”
Those people argue priests should administer the sacraments, but to feed the poor and hungry is the job of the government, he said.
According to Francis, this is a clerical attitude, which thinks the poor “are second-class people: we are the ruling class, we must not get our hands dirty with the poor.”
He said there are even many good priests and religious sisters who do not have the courage to bring food to the poor and hungry.
This kind of clericalism stems from losing the memory of belonging to the people, he argued.
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“They lost their memory, they lost what Jesus felt in his heart: that he was part of his own people. They have lost the memory of what God said to David: ‘I took you from the flock.’ They have lost the memory of their belonging to the flock.”
But there are also many men and women, including many priests, who have not lost this sense of belonging to the people, he said, sharing the story of a priest who is a pastor in a several mountain villages, and who took the monstrance with the Eucharist through the snow to bless the people.
“He did not care about the snow, he did not care about the burning the cold made him feel in his hands in contact with the metal of the monstrance: he only cared to bring Jesus to the people,” Francis stated.