In his homily Tuesday Pope Francis cautioned against the “counter-witness" of those who seek to follow both Jesus and worldly temptations, saying that to follow Christ means denying oneself and serving others.
“There are three things, three steps that take us away from Jesus: wealth, vanity and pride," the Pope told attendees of his May 26 Mass in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse.
Riches, he said, are dangerous “because they immediately make you vain and you think you are important. And when you think you are important, you build your head up and then you lose it."
Francis took his cue from the day’s Mark Chapter 10 Gospel reading in which Peter asks Jesus what the disciples will get in return for following him. The scene takes place right after Jesus had told the rich young man to sell all of his possessions and give them to the poor.
Instead of talking about wealth, the Lord gives an unexpected answer when he says that the disciples will gain the Kingdom of Heaven, but only “with persecution, with the cross."
“When a Christian is attached to (worldly) things, he gives the bad impression of a Christian who wants to have two things: (both) heaven and earth," the Pope said, explaining that that the daily cross of denying ourselves is the remedy.
From a human perspective following Jesus “is not a good deal" because it means serving others, he said. If the Lord gives you the opportunity to be first you have to act like the one in last place, and the same goes for wealth, he continued.
Pope Francis also indicated the Gospel passage in Matthew when the mother of James and John asks Jesus to secure a place for her sons at his side.
By essentially telling Jesus to “make this one prime minister for me, (and) this one, the minister of the economy," the disciples’ mother took the worldly path in following Jesus, the Pope noted.
When a person wants to be “with both Jesus and with the world, with both poverty and with riches…this is a half-way Christianity that desires material gain. It is the spirit of worldliness," he warned.
To follow the Lord freely, he said, “is the answer to the gratuitousness of love and salvation that Jesus gives us."
Francis observed how the frequently the attitude of worldliness prevails in the Church itself, saying that “it’s sad" to see Christians – laypersons, priests and bishops included – who strive after both heavenly and worldly things.
“(It) is a counter-witness and furthers people from Jesus," he said, and encouraged attendees to ask the Lord to teach them the “science of service," which provides a lesson in humility and in placing ourselves last so as to serve our brothers and sisters in the Church.
The Pope closed his homily by telling those present to continue the Mass with both Peter’s question and Jesus’ answer in mind.
“The recompense that (Jesus) will give us is resemblance to Him. This will be our ‘recompense;’ to be like Jesus!"