Pope Benedict XVI Saturday hailed Christ's humility, urging the faithful to look beyond the Christmas "glitter" and "enlightened reason", and issued a powerful message for peace.
"Today Christmas has become a commercial celebration, whose bright lights hide the mystery of God’s humility, which in turn calls us to humility and simplicity," the pope told thousands at mass in Saint Peter's basilica.
"Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light," the 84-year-old pontiff said.
Jesus had some sobering words for those who breezily make religious chatter but live lives in direct contradiction to the words they speak, those who live lives of opulence from the offerings of the poor and faithful.
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you--but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Mat 23:1-12)I don’t want this to be seen as an attack on Roman Catholics, many of whom are sincere and faithful followers of Christ. Frankly this makes me sick and it is hardly unique to Roman Catholicism. There is way too much chatter about service and humility among professing Christian leaders who live off the offerings of the sheep. Whether it is a charlatan like Benny Hinn or other prosperity preachers asking for donations that line their own pockets or a pope who dresses in finery that makes him look more like a Caesar of ancient Rome than the simple fisherman they claim to be the successors of, the tendency for organized religion to be used to steal from sincere followers of Christ is appalling.
The only way to combat this is to remove the influence of money on the church. Money for building projects, money for institutional preservation, money for clergy. All of it. Christians should give generously to spread the Gospel to those who have not heard and share unconditionally to meet the needs of those without food, shelter and clothing. That is it. Any other use of money is subject to the temptations of misuse, greed and envy.
Jesus taught that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil and that is true even when that love of money is cloaked in empty religious piety.