Pope Francis delivered his homily during a Mass at St. Peter’s Square for his general audience on Wednesday afternoon to mark the beginning of the Lenten season – Ash Wednesday.
Addressing the pilgrims present, he continued his catechesis on Mercy saying that Ash Wednesday offers us, the faithful a call to repentance and conversion. The Holy Father also called all to adopt the three works of mercy; almsgiving, prayer and fasting during the Lenten season.
In his remarks to the faithful, he noted that roughly 80 percent of the world’s wealth rests in the hands of about 20 percent of the people. He urged them to be charitable and open-handed with their possessions during this Lenten season, and throughout the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
“Each person can think in their hearts: if I have too many things, why not leave 10 percent, 50 percent, to those who have nothing?” he asked, reassuring those present that if they take the matter to prayer, the Holy Spirit would inspire them about what is reasonable for them to do.
Citing the biblical law regarding tithing, he said it would be used to assist the poor, people without land, orphans and widows. Tithing has always been, is now and always will be the means whereby God finances His Work and His Church.
He said that tithes such as this arrive daily to the Office of the Papal Almoner, which oversees the Pope’s charity funds. The pontiff explained the beauty in helping out whether it is people, charitable institutions, hospitals, retirement homes or foreigners.
“When the letters come in, they frequently contain “a little bit of money: something small or not so small, which is part of a person’s salary to help others,” the Pope said.
Pope Francis strongly condemned the practice of lending money and charging the borrower interest at an unreasonably high rate. He lamented how many families have been displaced from their homes due to the corruption and greed of some who are only interested in their own progress and gain.
“Usury is a grave sin before God,” he said. He cited how many times people in desperation “end up committing suicide because they can’t do it and they don’t have hope.”
These people “don’t have an outstretched hand to help them, only the hand that makes them pay for personal interests,” he said, and prayed that the Lord would use the Jubilee of Mercy as a time to remove the desire of usury from all hearts, making them bigger and more generous instead.
The pontiff reiterated the Lord’s assurances of support to bring blessings to those who lend a hand and who give generously. He added, the Lord “will give you double…maybe not in money, but the Lord always gives double.”