VATICAN CITY — On Wednesday, Pope Francis issued a harsh condemnation of those who exploit others and then donate to the Church, telling them that their “dirty money” isn’t wanted.
Taking his cue from the first chapter of the Book of Isaiah, Pope Francis said March 2 that God doesn’t like “the blood of bulls and lambs, especially if the offering is done with hands dirty with the blood of their brothers.”
Francis spoke to pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square for his general audience. He has dedicated the catechesis of the weekly address to the theme of mercy as seen in Scripture, as part of the Jubilee of Mercy.
In his speech, he said that when Isaiah tells the Israelites, “Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. … When you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood,” he thinks of certain Church benefactors.
There are some people, he said, who come with a generous offering, but which is “a fruit of the blood of so many people who are exploited, mistreated and enslaved by poorly paid jobs.”
“I say to these people: please, take back your check; burn it,” he said, adding that the Church “doesn’t need dirty money; it needs hearts open to the mercy of God.”
Pope Francis centered his address on the image offered by Isaiah of God as a father who corrects his children for rejecting him and doing evil, but who is also merciful and welcomes them back when they repent, never disowning them.
In the first chapter of Isaiah, God is seen as “an affectionate but attentive and strict father,” who calls Israel out for their infidelity and corruption, but only “in order to bring them back to the path of righteousness,” Francis said.
It is the educative mission of parents to help their children grow in freedom and learn to be responsible in carrying out good acts, both for themselves and for others, he said.
However, the Pope noted that, thanks to sin, this freedom can also become a pretense for autonomy and pride, which in turn leads to opposition and “the illusion of self-sufficiency.”
Instead of living our relationship with God in fidelity and obedience and with the knowledge that everything is a gift, Francis noted that, too often, we are privy to vanity, foolishness and idolatry.
One suffers as a consequence of sin, he said, explaining that when God is rejected, “life is no longer possible, existence loses its roots, and everything seems perverted and destroyed,” like what happened to Jerusalem.
However, he noted that even these painful moments are tests so that people can feel “the bitterness of those who abandoned God and, therefore, confront themselves with the desolate face of the choice of death.”
When God recognizes that this is the choice his people have made, he intervenes and tells them they have taken the wrong path, Francis said, adding that God “never disowns us.”
When the suffering caused due to one’s poor decisions leads sinners to open themselves to conversion and forgiveness, “this is the path of Divine Mercy,” the Pope explained.
“God doesn’t treat us according to our faults,” but uses his chastisements as a means to cause reflection, he said, adding that salvation implies making the decision “to listen and allow ourselves to be converted, but to always give thanks.”
In reference to Isaiah, Francis noted that instead of accepting Israel’s ritual sacrifices, he uses the prophet to tell them he wants justice instead.
This, he said, is not because the offerings were bad in themselves, but because they had become a distraction from growing close to God and accepting his love.
“Many times we don’t go to the Lord, but prefer a mistaken path, looking for an excuse, justice, peace outside of him,” he said, explaining that this is like a sick person who decides to visit “a sorcerer” instead of a doctor: “They are not healed.”
Pope Francis pointed to Isaiah’s instruction for the people to wash and purify themselves by turning away from evil and choosing to do good instead.
“Sins, even if they bleed scarlet, become white like the snow and pure white like wool, and the people will be able to nourish themselves on the goods of the earth and live in peace,” he said, quoting the passage from Isaiah.
This, he said, “is the miracle of the forgiveness of God: the forgiveness that God as Father wants to give to his people.”