August 30, 2019


We must fight hypocrisy to build community

As Catholics, we understand that our faith encourages us to build bridges, not walls.

It also should lead us to build community.

Many of us take these charges seriously. Others, unfortunately, have no interest in journeying outside a bubble of self-interest.

To take it a step further, we want people to understand we’re not talking about actual physical structures to keep people from crossing a border into the United States, but of a spiritual dryness that keeps some Christians engrossed in their own world where sharing gifts with our brothers and sisters in need is not even a blip on their radar. The word “community” is non-existent in their vocabulary or their livelihood. But it should be where our gifts are concerned.

During his weekly general audience at the Vatican on Aug. 21, Pope Francis called out those so-called people of faith who focus more on being superficially close to the Church rather than caring for our brothers and sisters in need.

He said individuals who refuse to be the hands and feet of Christ to the less fortunate are like tourists who wander around aimlessly.

People “who are always passing by but never enter the Church” in a fully communal way of sharing and caring engage in a sort of “spiritual tourism that makes them believe they are Christians, but instead are only tourists of catacombs,” he said.

“A life based only on profiting and taking advantage of situations to the detriment of others inevitably causes inner death,” the pope said. “And how many people say they are close to the Church, friends of priests and bishops, yet only seek their own interests. These are the hypocrisies that destroy the Church.”

In his ongoing weekly catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles, Pope Francis reflected on the sharing of goods among the first Christian communities.

While sharing in prayer and the Eucharist united believers “in one heart and one soul,” the pope said that the sharing of goods helped the early Christians to care for one another and “kept away the scourge of poverty.”

The Holy Father explained that the Greek word “koinonia,” or communion, “becomes the new way of relating between the disciples of the Lord. The bond with Christ establishes a bond between brothers and sisters that also converges and is expressed in the communion of material goods. Being members of the Body of Christ makes believers responsible for one another.”

To put in its simplest terms, it reiterates that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. We hear this tenet time and time again, especially in a world where there is such disparity between the haves and have nots.

But there are some in society who distance themselves from this call to discipleship, or even worse, take advantage of situations for their own benefit.

“Hypocrisy is the worst enemy of this Christian community, of this Christian love: that way of pretending to love one another but only seeking one’s own interest,” Pope Francis said. “In fact, to fail in the sincerity of sharing or to fail in the sincerity of love means to cultivate hypocrisy, to distance oneself from the truth, to become selfish, to extinguish the fire of communion and to destine oneself to the chill of inner death.”

“To cultivate hypocrisy” is strong language, but as is his nature, our Holy Father uses phrases like this out of love. Again and again, his sentiments should be viewed as instruments to plant seeds of faith for members of his flock to become more Christlike.

How much is too much? Do we take time to share our gifts with our brothers and sisters in need? Or have we become selfish where we hoard them for ourselves and a select few others? Those are questions worth reflecting on each day.

Please Lord, may we not let greed and selfishness guide our lives and always use our gifts to build bridges and community.

—Mike Krokos

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