Father Cantalamessa Warns of Hypocrisy

In 1st Lenten Homily to Pontifical Household

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 9, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Hypocrisy is not only the sin God denounces most forcefully, it is also the least admitted, according to the preacher of the Pontifical Household.



Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa made this observation today in the first of four Lenten homilies that he will deliver to Benedict XVI and the Roman Curia. The meditations will all be reflections on the beatitudes.

The preacher, speaking in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, commented on the beatitude "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

"What determines the purity or impurity of an action is the intention, that is, if it is done to be seen by men or to please God," the priest said.

Purity of heart, added Father Cantalamessa, does not indicate "a particular virtue, but a quality that must accompany all virtues, so that they are truly virtues and not, instead, 'splendid vices.'"

The Pontifical Household preacher concluded, therefore, that the opposite of purity "is not impurity, but rather hypocrisy."

God second

The priest said that this is the sin that God denounces most forcefully throughout the Bible, because with hypocrisy "man degrades God, puts him in second place, putting the creature, the public, in first place."

He added that hypocrisy is not only "essentially, a lack of faith," but also a "lack of charity to one's neighbor, in the sense that it tends to reduce people to admirers."

Father Cantalamessa said that "there is never talk of the social importance of the beatitude of purity of heart." But he added that he is "convinced that this beatitude could exercise today one of the most necessary functions in our society," as "it is, perhaps the most widespread and least confessed human vice."

The priest said that hypocrisy translates into leading two lives: One is a true life and the other is an imaginary one that empties the person, and reduces the individual to an image or mere appearance.

Feigning holiness

Father Cantalamessa pointed out that hypocrisy is also found among religious people for a simple reason: "Where the appreciation of the values of the spirit of piety and of virtue is strongest, so also is the temptation to display them so as not to appear deprived of them."

The preacher said that "a simple and unsurpassable means to rectify our intentions" is to repeat the three first petitions of the Our Father: "Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done."

He said that "they can be recited as a prayer, but also as statements of intention: Everything I do, I want to do so that your name is sanctified, your kingdom come and your will be done."

Father Cantalamessa continued: "It would be a precious contribution to society and to the Christian community if the beatitude of the pure of heart would help to awaken in us the nostalgia of a clean, true, sincere world without hypocrisy, either religious or secular; a world in which actions correspond to words, words to thoughts and man's thoughts to those of God."

[Full text of Father Cantalamessa's homily will appear Sunday]