A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Beware the banana skin!

By Bridget Taumoepeau

During a homily at daily Mass on 15 December 2014 the Pope said “Never condemn others, but if temptation strikes, then condemn yourself because there is bound to be something deserving judgement”.

Pope Francis feels very strongly about people he sees as hypocritical. In that homily he describes people who have the appearance of doing the right thing; of attending to the external signs and symbols of faith, but who have what he calls ‘a rotten heart’ - a heart that is not built on the rock who is Christ. 

This is not the first time that the Holy Father has made reference to hypocrisy, but what distinguished this homily was the outrage he felt, to the extent that he said he hoped that the Lord would put a banana skin in the path of such people, so that they would fall and experience shame as sinners, resulting in an encounter with the Lord, which would lead to their healing.

Hypocrisy sits on our shoulder, or lurks around the corner of our everyday lives. It is a temptation for us all. It is hard not to think of oneself as a bit better than another; even a bit holier. Telling others of what good things we have done seems to come naturally.  It is easy to give to charity, but not to be in solidarity with the poor in a practical way.  It is easy to feel one may be helping out, but still have a resistance to dirtying one’s hands. It is easy to contribute to an event with some food, yet not to welcome people in a spirit of generosity. It is so easy to look down on others without exploring or attempting to understand their circumstances. 

And so I feel I should examine my conscience about the sincerity of my actions; the authenticity of my charity; essential, in fact, to think this way, lest I find that I have slipped on a banana skin, that had surreptitiously been placed in front of me, drawing my attention to the importance of Catholic social teaching and putting me at risk of learning a hard lesson of shame, by a humbling fall.   

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