Vatican Radio) Lent is a time to “adjust your life,” “to get closer to the Lord.” That was the message of Pope Francis at Mass this morning at Casa Santa Marta. The Pope warned against thinking of ourselves as “better than others.” The hypocrites, he warned, “disguise themselves as good people” and do not understand that no one is made just by his own efforts; we all need to undergo justification.
Pope Francis began his homily stressing “conversion” as the key word of Lent, a favourable time “to grow closer” to Jesus. Commenting on the First Reading, from the book of Isaiah, he said that the Lord calls two “sinful cities” like Sodom and Gomorrah to conversion. This shows us that we all “need to make a change of life,” to take a “good look into our soul” — where we always find something. The purpose of Lent, then, is precisely “to adjust my life,” to draw closer to the Lord. Jesus, the Pope said, wants to be close to us; He assures us the He is “waiting for us in order to forgive us.” However, he cautioned, the Lord wants “a sincere approach;” and warns us against being hypocrites:
“What makes people hypocrites? They disguise themselves, they disguise themselves as good people: they make themselves up like little holy cards, looking up at heaven as they pray, making sure they are seen—they believe they are more righteous than others, they despise others. ‘Mah,’ they say, “I’m very Catholic, because my uncle was a great benefactor, my family is this, I’m that… I’ve learned... I know this bishop, this Cardinal, this priest... I am this or that...’ They think they are better than others. This is hypocrisy. The Lord says, ‘No, not that.’ No one is justified by himself. We all need to be justified. And the only one who justifies us is Jesus Christ.“
For this reason, he said, we must approach the Lord: “In order not to be Christians in disguise, so that when the appearance passes, one can see the reality that they are not Christians.” What, then, is “the yardstick” to ensure that we are not hypocrites and that we are able to draw closer to the Lord?” The answer, the Pope said is that given us by the Lord in the First Reading: “Wash yourselves clean!” Purify yourself! “Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good.” This is the invitation. But, Pope Francis asked, “what is the sign that we are going along on a good path?”
“‘Redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.’ Take care of the neighbour: the sick, the poor, the needy, the ignorant. This is the yardstick. The hypocrites do not know how to do this, they can’t, because they are so full of themselves that they are blind on account of watching others. When one walks a little bit and comes closer to the Lord, the light of the Lord makes him see these things and he goes to help the brothers. This is the sign, this is the sign of conversion.”
Of course, he said, “this is not the whole of conversion;” that, in fact, “is the encounter with Jesus Christ.” The “sign that we are with Jesus Christ is this: caring for the brothers and sisters, the poorest, the sick, as the Lord teaches us,” as we read in chapter 25 of the Gospel of St Matthew:
“Lent is to adjust life, to fix life, to change life, to draw closer to the Lord. The sign that we are far from the Lord is hypocrisy. The hypocrite does not need the Lord, he is saved by himself — so he thinks — and he disguises himself as a saint. The sign that we are drawing closer to the Lord with repentance, asking for forgiveness, is that we care for the needy brethren. May the Lord give us all light and courage: light to know what’s happening within us, and courage to convert, to draw closer to the Lord. It is beautiful to be close to the Lord.”