(Vatican Radio) In Jesus’ time, the leading class had distanced itself from the people,
abandoning them by pursuing their own ideologies and sliding ever downwards into corruption.
That’s what Pope Francis said Thursday morning in his homily while celebrating Mass in St Peter’s Basilica, with the presence of nearly 500 Members of the Italian Parliament.
Most members of Italy’s Parliament attended the mass, including nine ministers and the Speakers of the Senate and the House.
Listen to Tracey McClure's report:
In his remarks, Pope Francis referred to the day’s first reading from the Book of Jeremiah which speaks of the prophet who gives voice to God’s pain regarding a generation which, the Pope observed, failed to welcome his messengers, preferring instead to justify its sins. This turning away from the Lord caused Him great pain, the Pope said, noting that this theme also runs through today’s Gospel reading which speaks of the leaders of the people as being blind to God.
"The hearts of this people, this group, with time became hardened so, so, so much - so that it was impossible to hear the voice of the Lord. And as sinners, they slid (downwards); they became corrupt. It 's very hard for a corrupt person to go back (on his tracks). The sinner, yes, because the Lord is merciful and awaits us all. But the corrupt person is fixated on his affairs, and these people were corrupt. And for this, they justify themselves, because Jesus, with his simplicity, but with his strength in God - he made trouble for them (it: dava loro fastidio). "
These were people, continued Pope Francis, who “have taken the wrong path. They resisted the salvation of the Lord’s love, and thus slipped away from the faith, from a theology of faith to a theology of duty.”
“They rejected the Lord’s love and this rejection put them on a path that was not the dialectic of freedom offered by the Lord, but that of the logic of necessity, where there is no room for the Lord. In the dialectic of freedom, there is the good Lord who loves us, who loves us very much! Rather, in the logic of necessity, there is no place for God: this must be done, this must be done, this must…They have become behavioral (it: comportamentali): well-mannered men, but with bad habits. Jesus calls them ‘whitewashed tombs’.”
Lent, Pope Francis concluded, reminds us that “God loves all of us” and that “we must make the effort to open up” to Him:
"On this path of Lent it will do us well to think about this invitation from the Lord to love, about this dialectic of freedom where there is love, and to ask ourselves, all of us, …am I on this path? Do I risk justifying myself and take another path? A road with many junctions (it: strada congiunturale) because it does not lead to any promise ... And we pray that the Lord gives us the grace to always go down the path of salvation, to open ourselves to the salvation that only comes from God, through faith - not from what was proposed by these 'professionals of duty,' (it: dottori del dovere) who had lost the faith, and who led (it: reggevano) the people with this pastoral theology of duty.”