For a Christian, Jesus is “all”, and this is the source of his or her benevolence.
This was the focus of Pope Francis’s message during Mass on Monday morning at the Domus Sanctae Marthae. The Pope also affirmed that the righteousness of Jesus exceeds the righteousness of the scribes, that it is superior to the “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” kind of justice. Amongst those present at the Mass, which was concelebrated by Cardinal Attilio Nicora, was a group of collaborators of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority and a group of Vatican Museums collaborators accompanied by the Museum administrative director, Fr Paolo Nicolini. The Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Luis Tagle, was also present.
“If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also”. Pope Francis focused his homily on Jesus’ earth-shaking words to his disciples. The slap of the cheek – he said – has become a classic take used by some to laugh about Christians. In life, he explained, everyday logic teaches us to “fight to defend our place” and if we receive a slap “we react and return two slaps in order to defend ourselves”. On the other hand, the Pope said, when I advise parents to scold their children I always say: “never slap their cheek”, because “the cheek is dignity”. And Jesus, he continued, after the slap on the cheek goes further and invites us to hand over our coat as well, to undress ourselves completely.
The righteousness that He brings – the Pope affirmed – is another kind of justice that is totally different from “eye for eye, tooth for tooth”. It’s another justice. This is clear when St. Paul speaks of Christians as “people who have nothing in themselves but possess all things in Christ”. So, Christian security is exactly this “all” that is in Christ. “All” – he added – is Jesus Christ. Other things are “nothing” for a Christian. Instead, the Pope warned, “for the spirit of the world “all” means things: riches, vanities”, it means “to be well placed in society” where “Jesus is nothing”. Thus, if a Christian can walk 100 kilometres when he is asked to walk 10, “it’s because for him or for her this is “nothing”. And with serenity, “he or she can give his or her coat when asked for his or her tunic”. This is the secret of Christian benevolence that always goes together with meekness”: it is “all”, it is Jesus Christ:
“A Christian is a person who opens up his or her heart with this spirit of benevolence, because he or she has “all”: Jesus Christ. The other things are “nothing”. Some are good, they have a purpose, but in the moment of choice he or she always chooses “all”, with that meekness, that Christian meekness that is the sign of Jesus’ disciples: meekness and benevolence. To live like this is not easy, because you really do receive slaps! And on both cheeks! But a Christian is meek, a Christian is benevolent: he or she opens up his or her heart. Sometimes we come across these Christians with little hearts, with shrunken hearts…. This is not Christianity: this is selfishness, masked as Christianity”.
“A true Christian” – the Pope continued – “knows how to solve this bi-polar opposition, this tension that exists between “all” and “nothing”, just as Jesus has taught us: “First search for God’s Kingdom and its justice, the rest comes afterwards”.
“God’s Kingdom is “all”, the other is secondary. And all Christian errors, all the Church’s errors, all our errors stem from when we say “nothing” is “all”, and to “all” we say it does not count… Following Jesus is not easy, but it’s not difficult either, because on the path of love the Lord does things in such a way that we can go forward; it is the Lord himself who opens up our heart”.
This is what we must pray for – the Pope said – “when we are confronted with the choice of the slap, the coat, the 100 kilometres”, we must pray the Lord to “open up our heart” so that “we are benevolent and meek” . We must pray so that we do not “fight for small things, for the “nothings” of daily life”.
“When one takes on an option for “nothing”, it is from that option that conflicts arise in families, in friendships, between friends, in society. Conflicts that end in war: for “nothing”! “Nothing” is always the seed of wars. Because it is the seed of selfishness. “All” is Jesus. Let us ask the Lord to open up our heart, to make us humble, meek and benevolent because we have “all” in Him; and let’s ask him to help us avoid creating everyday problems stemming from “nothing”.
Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven.