The sacred things of our Catholic faith must be freed from their ties with money, Pope Francis said on Sunday.
In a reflection on the Gospel of the “widow’s mite” Nov. 7, the pope praised the woman for giving everything she had, without concern for how it would look to others.
Francis also criticized the hypocrisy of the scribes, who “devour the houses of widows” while appearing to be holy.
“The Lord denounces the exploitation of this woman, who, in making her offering, must return home without even the little she had to live on,” he said. “How important it is to free the sacred from its ties with money.”
Pope Francis spoke about the widow and the scribes during his weekly Angelus speech, which he delivered from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square.
In the message, he said Jesus praises the widow’s tithe to the treasury of the temple, because “she has nothing left, but finds her everything in God.”
“She is not afraid of losing the little she has because she trusts in God’s abundance, who multiplies the joy of those who give,” Francis added.
Jesus proposes this woman as a teacher of the faith, instead of the scribes, because “she does not go to the Temple to clear her conscience, she does not pray to make herself seen, she does not show off her faith, but she gives from her heart generously and freely.”
The pope urged people to not be hypocrites like the scribes, who “covered their vainglory with the name of God and, worse still, used religion to run their business, abusing their authority and exploiting the poor.”
Do not base your life on “the cult of appearances, externals, and the exaggerated care of one’s own image,” he advised. “In what we say and do, do we want to be appreciated and gratified or to render a service to God and to our neighbor, especially the weakest?”
“We must watch out for falsehood of the heart, against hypocrisy, which is a dangerous illness of the soul,” he said.
According to Pope Francis, the attitude of the scribes in the Gospel endures today in the form of clericalism, which he described as “being above the poor, exploiting them, ‘beating them,’ feeling perfect.”
“This is the evil of clericalism,” he said. “This is a warning for all time and for everyone, Church and society: never to take advantage of a specific role to crush others, never to make money off the backs of the weakest.”
We have to be vigilant in order to not fall into vanity, fixating on appearances and living superficially, Francis stated.
Jesus, by telling the story of the poor widow, shows us the path to healing from clericalism and hypocrisy, he said.
“The sound of her few coins is more beautiful than the grandiose offerings of the rich, since they express a life sincerely dedicated to God, a faith that does not live by appearances but by unconditional trust. Let us learn from her: a faith without external frills, but interiorly sincere; a faith composed of humble love for God and for our brothers and sisters.”
After praying the Angelus, Pope Francis noted his concern for conflict in the region of the Horn of Africa, especially in Ethiopia. “I invite everyone to pray for those peoples who are so severely tried, and I renew my appeal that fraternal harmony and the peaceful way of dialogue prevail,” he said.
The pope also said he is praying for the victims of a Nov. 5 fuel explosion on the outskirts of Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.
According to Reuters, local authorities have reported that at least 99 people were killed and more than 100 injured when a fuel tanker exploded after a collision late on Friday.
The accident has caused an even greater strain on the city’s health system, which was still suffering from underfunding and a lack of doctors following the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic.
Pope Francis also noted the Nov. 6 beatification of three Capuchin Friars Minor who were killed in Manresa, Spain, in 1936.
The friars Fr. Josep Domenech Bonet, Joseph Oriol, and Domènech de Sant Pere de Riudebitlles “were killed in the period of religious persecution of the last century in Spain, proving to be meek and courageous witnesses of Christ,” the pope said.
“May their example help Christians today to remain faithful to their vocation, even in times of trial.”