The Holy Father reflected on the reading from Maccabees (below), which tells of the people’s joy following the reconsecration of the Holy Temple, and the rekindling of their identity as a people.
In contrast, those “who indulge in worldliness do not know how to celebrate – they can’t celebrate!” the Pope said.
“At most, the worldly spirit can provide amusement; it can provoke excitement, but true joy can only come from faith in the Covenant,” he explained.
The Gospel reading from today (below) recounts the cleansing of the temple, with the attitudes of the money-changers in stark opposition to the rejoicing of the Maccabees.
“The Gospel says the chief priests and scribes had changed things,” the Pontiff said. “They had dishonored and compromised the Temple. They had dishonored the Temple!”
The Temple is a symbol of the Church, the Holy Father said, and the Church “will always – always! – be subject to the temptation of worldliness and power. Jesus did not say ‘No, do not do this inside. Go outside instead.’ He said ‘You have made it a den of thieves!’ And when the Church enters into such a state of decline, the end is bad. Very bad indeed.”
Pope Francis said the danger of corruption within the Church arises when “the Church, instead of being devoted to faith in Our Lord, in the Prince of Peace, in joy, in salvation, becomes dominated by money and power. This is exactly what happens here, in this Gospel reading. These priests, chief priests and scribes were driven by money, power and they ignored the Holy Spirit. And in order to be able to justify their actions, they poisoned the free spirit of the Lord with hypocrisy.”
The Pope said that in the 23rd chapter of St. Matthew, Jesus speaks of their hypocrisy: “These were people who had lost their sense of godliness, and even the ability to rejoice, to praise God. They did not know how to worship the Lord because they were too distracted by money and power, and by a form of worldiness.”
“Jesus did not chase the priests and scribes away from the Temple; he chased away those who were doing business there, the businessmen of the Temple. The chief priests and scribes were involved in their dealings: this is ‘holy bribery’! The Gospel is very clear. It says ‘The chief priests and scribes wanted to kill Jesus, along with the elders of the people’. The same thing happened under the rule of Judas Maccabeus.”
But where Jesus is, there is no room for worldliness, the Pope said.
“There is no room for corruption! This is a challenge for each and every one of us; this is the struggle the Church has to face every day. We must always heed Jesus’ words; we must never seek comfort from another master. Jesus told us that we cannot serve two masters. God or riches; God or power.”
The Pope concluded, saying “We ought to pray for the Church. We must hold in our hearts today’s martyrs, who suffer and die, so as not to be ensnared by worldly desires, by obsession, by apostasy. Today! Today, there are more martyrs of the Church than there ever were before. Let’s think about that. It does us good to think about them. And also to pray that we may never fall into the trap of worldliness, where we will be obsessed only by money and power.”