What is it within ourselves that makes us mock and belittle the weakest among us? That was the question Pope Francis posed during his homily at the morning Mass on Monday in the Casa Santa Marta.
By Devin Watkins
Pope Francis at Monday morning’s Mass reflected on the many Biblical stories that tell of a powerful person humiliating someone weaker and more vulnerable. The devil is behind this type of attitude, the Pope said, because there is no compassion in him.
The Holy Father took his cue from the First Reading, taken from the First Book of Samuel, about Samuel’s parents, Elkanah and Hannah. His father, Elkanah, had two wives: Hannah, who was barren, and Peninnah, who had borne him several children. Instead of consoling Hannah, Peninnah scorned and humiliated her on account of her infertility.
‘Bible contains many stories of scorn towards the weak’
Pope Francis said other Biblical stories also tell of scorn towards the weak, as does the story of Abraham’s wives, Hagar and Sarah. He said the same attitude of scorn and contempt occurs between men. Goliath, he said, ridiculed David. Both Job’s and Tobias’ wives belittled their suffering husbands.
“I ask myself: What is within these people? What is it within ourselves that pushes us to mock and mistreat others weaker than ourselves? It is understandable when a person resents someone stronger than them, perhaps as a result of envy… but towards the weak? What makes us do that? It is something habitual, as if I needed to ridicule another person in order to feel confident. As if it were a necessity…”
Cruelty among children: a childhood memory
Pope Francis noted that even among children this happens. The Holy Father said that when he was young, there was a woman with a mental illness, Angelina, who lived in his neighborhood. She would walk the streets all day, and people would give her food to eat and clothes. Local children, however, would make fun of her. They would say: “Let’s find Angelina and have some fun”.
Pope Francis lamented this situation, saying “How much evil there is, even in children, that they treat the weak in this way!”
“And today we see it constantly in our schools; the phenomenon of bullying, attacking the weak, because you’re fat or foreign, or because you’re black… Attacking and attacking… Children and young people, too. It wasn’t just Peninnah, Hagar, or the wives of Tobias and Job: even children. This means there is something within us that makes us act aggressively toward the weak.”
The desire to destroy another person is the work of Satan
Pope Francis said that psychologists would probably give another explanation of this desire to destroy another because they are weak, but, he said, “I believe it is a consequence of Original Sin. This is the work of Satan.” Satan, he said, has no compassion.
“And so, as when we already have a good desire to do a good act, like an act of charity, we say ‘It’s the Holy Spirit inspiring me to do this’. And when we realize we harbor within ourselves the desire to attack someone because they are weak, we have no doubt: It is the devil. Because attacking the weak is the work of Satan.”
Finally, Pope Francis said, “Let us ask the Lord to give us the grace of God’s compassion. He is the One who has compassion on us and helps us to move forward.”