Pope Francis has warned against the temptations of “money, vanity, and idle chatter” that he said have divided believers since the early days of Christianity.
Reflecting on the first reading during Mass at Casa Santa Marta on April 21, the pontiff cited the harmony among first Christian communities.
He said the description in the reading was no fantasy but a model for today’s Church.
“It is true that immediately after this problems will begin,” said the pontiff. “But the Lord shows us how far we can go if we are open to the Holy Spirit, if we are docile,” he added.
Pope Francis noted that many things divided parishes, dioceses, communities of priests, and men and women religious, including the temptations of money, vanity, and idle chatter.
“Money divides the community,” he said. “For this reason, poverty is the mother of the community. Poverty is the wall that guards the community,” the pope added.
He added that “money divides” even families. “How many families ended up divided by an inheritance?” he said.
“Another thing that divides a community is vanity, that desire to feel better than others. ‘Thank you, Lord, that I am not like the others:’ the Pharisee’s prayer,” added the pope.
He said vanity can even be seen at the celebration of sacraments, with people vying to wear the best clothes.
“Vanity enters there too. And vanity divides. Because vanity leads you to be a peacock and where there is a peacock, there is division, always,” he said.
“A third thing that divides a community is idle chatter,” said the pontiff, adding that he had mentioned it in the past “but it’s reality.”
“That thing that the devil puts in us, like a need to talk about others. ‘What a good person that is …’ — ‘Yes, yes, but…’ Immediately the ‘but:’ that’s a stone to disqualify the other,” said Pope Francis.
The pontiff, however, said that with the Holy Spirit “we are able to resist all three temptations.”
“Let us ask the Lord this docility to the Spirit so that He may transform us and transform our communities, our parish, diocesan, religious communities: transform them, so that we may always move forward in the harmony that Jesus wants for the Christian community,” he said.
In his reflection on the Gospel in which Jesus tells Nicodemus that he “must be born from above,” the pope said people are reborn through the Holy Spirit rather than by their own efforts.
He urged the faithful to listen and to allow the Holy Spirit in to bring an end to divisions in communities.
“The Spirit always comes with his strength to save us from this worldliness of money, vanity, and idle chatter,” he said, adding that “the Spirit is not the world: he is against the world.”
Pope Francis started the Mass by praying for the ability to listen as the world faces an “unfamiliar” silence due to the coronavirus pandemic.
He noted the particularly rainy day in Rome where “you can even hear the silence.”
“May this silence, which is a bit new to what we are accustomed, teach us how to listen, that we might grow in our ability to listen,” said the pope.