God is real, too many Christians are fake, suggested Pope Francis, reflecting on how many Christians treat faith as though it were window dressing, devoid of obligation, or an occasion for aggrandizement rather than an opportunity for service, especially to our neediest neighbors, according to Vatican sources. He described Christianity as a religion that by its very nature, must act for good, not a "religion of saying" made of hypocrisy.
"Merely talking leads to vanity, to faking being a Christian. But no, one is not a Christian this way," Pope Francis said Tuesday (Feb. 23) during a homily Mass in the Chapel of the Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican.
Referring to the readings of the day from Isaiah and from the Gospel of Matthew, in which Jesus warns of judgment awaiting those who do not practice what they preach, Francis said Christians must act on their beliefs and care for the neediest: the hungry, the thirsty and those in prison, reports Religion News Service.
According to Vatican Radio's report, the pontiff said the readings highlighted the "evangelical dialectic between saying and doing."
He pointed in particular to the way Jesus called out the "scribes and Pharisees" as seemingly devout believers who in effect tell the crowds to do as they say, not as they do: "The Lord teaches us the way of doing: and how many times we find people - ourselves included - so often in the church, who say, 'Oh, we are very Catholic.' But what do you do? How many parents say they are Catholics, but never have time to talk to their children, to play with their children, to listen to their children. Perhaps they have their parents in a nursing home, but always are busy and cannot go and visit them and so leave them there, abandoned. 'But I am very Catholic: I belong to that association.' This is the religion of saying: 'I say it is so, but I do according to the ways of the world.' "
This type of religion "is a deception," Francis continued.
"To be a Christian means to do: To do the will of God. And on the last day, because all of us will have one, that day, what shall the Lord ask us? Will he say: 'What you have said about me?' No! He shall ask us about the things we did."
He concluded with a prayer and hope for future wisdom for Christians: "May the Lord give us this wisdom to understand well where lies the difference between saying and doing, and teach us the way of doing and help us to go down that way, because the way of saying brings us to the place where were these teachers of the law, these clerics, who liked dressing up and acting just like if they were so many Majesties - and this is not the reality of the Gospel. May the Lord teach us this way."