Rome (Monday, 03-09-2015, Gaudium Press) On Sunday evening Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the parish of Santa Maria Madre del Redentore located in the Roman suburb of Tor Bella Monaca.
Commenting on the Gospel of John (2: 13-25), when Jesus clears the Temple courts, Pope Francis, in his homily, warned Christians they cannot fool Jesus, acting like saints when they are in church, but living like pagans in their daily lives. Jesus knows what is in the heart of man, he said, and he calls those who live this double life “hypocrites.”
The Pope said Christians would do well to look into their hearts and there “to look upon Jesus.” The Lord, he said, knows that people are sinners but there is no need to be afraid to acknowledge this sinfulness.
Many sins can be found in one’s heart: sins of selfishness, pride, envy jealousy. Christians must open their heart to Jesus, and ask Him to cleanse it. Jesus does not cleanse hearts with a whip, as He cleansed the Temple. Rather, He purifies hearts with the “whip” of mercy, said the Pope.
The Pope also met with the children of the parish, taking several questions from them.
In response to a question about the existence of hell, the Pope explained that hell is for those who decide they do not need God or God’s mercy.
“No one sends you to hell: you go to hell because you choose to be there,” he said. “Hell is wanting to distance yourself from God because you do not want God.”
In response to a question regarding Christian morality, he said living a moral life is a grace and the response of having encountered Jesus and loving him.
When faced with temptation, ask Jesus to watch over you and not to leave you, he counseled the young people. And when you fall, quickly get up, he exhorted. “Jesus helps you get up when you fall,” he said.
The Pope also met with members of the parish council, pastoral workers and collaborators of the parish. He spoke of the poverty within the parish territory and the ways in which unemployment, injustice and discrimination have put the people’s goodness to the test.
Not only are people perhaps tempted to do “ugly things” to get by, there are also the temptations of addictions, such as drugs and alcohol, that add to the problem, he said.
Speaking with the parish workers, he said they have understood that that there is goodness among the poor, despite these difficulties that are sometimes present, and the parishioners offer them an alternative to a situation in which they may feel constricted to “do ugly things.”
“When people are well cared for, they do not fall into the net of bad people,” he said
He then gave them, what he termed “the first pastoral commandment”: closeness to all people, even to those who may have done wrong because even they have hearts and are loved by God.
“We cannot go to a family that has sick or hungry children or that has fallen into vice with ‘you must, you must, you must.’ No. We must go with closeness, with the caress that Jesus taught us,” he said.
Before the Mass, the Pope also visited the church of Santa Giovanna Antida, within the parish boundaries, where he met with members of the community who are sick or poor, and who are cared for by the Missionaries of Charity.
From Vatican Radio