ROME — In his homily on Friday, Pope Francis said that the love of God and neighbor are inseparable. He castigated the actions of those who give to the Church but at the same time exploit and mistreat others.

Although many claim to practice charity because they write a check to the Church every month, “at your home, within your own [domestic] church, are you generous and are you fair with those who are your dependents, be they your children, your grandparents, your employees?” the Pope asked during Mass on Feb. 20.

“You cannot make offerings to the Church on the shoulders of the injustice that you practice towards your dependents. This is a very serious sin: using God as a cover for injustice.” 

Lent is a time when Christians are provided the opportunity to go beyond mere outward signs of piety and reach out to those in need, he said.

Within the Ten Commandments, there are laws regarding God and those regarding our neighbor, Francis observed, saying that “both of these go together. … If you don’t follow one, you can’t follow the other; and if you follow one, you must follow the other.”

“Love of God and love of our neighbor is one and the same thing; and if you want to show genuine and not just formal penance, you must show it before God and also towards your brothers.”

This charity, Francis said, ought to be practiced at home within one’s family, at work with one’s employees and colleagues and with the needy.

Francis gave particular emphasis to prisoners, asking those present if they had room in their hearts for those who have made mistakes and are now in jail.

To say that you don’t associate with “those type of people” is wrong, the Pope said, noting that if you yourself are not in prison “it’s because Our Lord has helped you not to sin.”

“Do you pray for (prisoners), so that the Lord can help them to change their lives?” he asked.

He prayed that the Lord be close to each person during Lent, “so that our external observance becomes a profound renewal of the Spirit.”