In his homily for daily Mass in the chapel of the St. Martha Residence today, Pope Francis said that vanity must be guarded against by every serious Christian believer, taking his theme from today’s first Mass reading, Ecclesiastes 1:2-11. The Pope also said that corporal and spiritual works of mercy ought not be done for show, or in a way that invites people to be lauded for merely doing the Lord’s work. Christians must avoid the temptation to “make themselves seen,” the Pope said. He also said that we should go about helping the poor and less fortunate quietly and without fanfare. “Don’t sound the trumpet, do it secretly. The Father sees it, and that is enough,” the Pope said.
“But the vain man says: ‘Look, I’m giving this check for the work of the Church’ and he shows the check; then he scams the Church from the other direction. But this is what makes the vain man: he lives for appearances. ‘When you fast,’ the Lord says to this, ‘please do not be melancholy, sad, so that everyone will notice that you’re fasting. No, fast with joy; do penance with joy, so that no one will notice.’ This is vanity: it is living for appearances, living to be seen,” the Pontiff explained. “Christians who live that way, for appearances, for vanity, seem like peacocks, they strut about like peacocks. They are the people who say, ‘I am a Christian, I am related to that priest, to that sister, to that bishop; my family is a Christian family.’ They boast. But, what about your life with the Lord? How do you pray? Your life in the works of mercy, how’s that going? Do you visit the sick? Reality,” the pontiff preached. “Jesus tells us we must build our house – that is, our Christian life – on the rock, on the truth.” The Pope further explained that “the vain build their house on sand, and that house falls, that Christian life falls, slips, because it is not able to resist temptations.”
“How many Christians live for appearances? Their life seems like a soap bubble. The soap bubble is beautiful, with all its colors!, exclaimed Francis. “But it lasts only a second, and then what? Even when we look at some funeral monuments, we feel it’s vanity, because the truth is returning to the bare earth, as the Servant of God Paul VI said. The bare earth awaits us, this is our final truth. In the meantime, do I boast or do I do something? Do I do good? Do I seek God? Do I pray? Substantial things. And vanity is a liar, a fantasist, it deceives itself, it deceives the vain, because in the beginning he pretends to be, but in the end he really believes himself to be that, he believes. He believes it. Poor thing!”
“The Egyptian Fathers of the desert said that vanity is a temptation against which we must battle our whole life, because it always comes back to take the truth away from us,” taught the Bishop of Rome. “And in order to understand this they said: It’s like an onion. You take it, and begin to peel it – the onion – and you peel away vanity today, a little bit tomorrow, and your whole life your peeling away vanity in order to overcome it. And at the end you are pleased: I removed the vanity, I peeled the onion, but the odour remains with you on your hand. Let us ask the Lord for the grace to not be vain, to be true, with the truth of reality and of the Gospel.”