In a colorful Thursday homily, Pope Francis highlighted the sin of vanity, saying that Christians must reject it by peeling away one layer at a time. He cited the Desert Fathers, the saints of early Christian Egypt, who saw that “vanity is a temptation against which we must battle our whole life, because it always comes back to take the truth away from us.” Drawing from their comparison, Pope Francis explained that vanity is “like an onion,” with layers that must be removed. “You take it, and begin to peel it — the onion — and you peel away vanity today, a little bit tomorrow, and your whole life you’re peeling away vanity in order to overcome it.” “And at the end you are pleased: I removed the vanity, I peeled the onion, but the odor remains with you on your hand,” he remarked in his Sept. 25 homily during morning Mass at his Casa Santa Martha residence at the Vatican. “Let us ask the Lord for the grace to not be vain, to be true, with the truth of reality and of the Gospel.” Warning against the sin of vanity, Pope Francis compared vain Christians to soap bubbles that will soon burst or peacocks who “strut about.” “How many Christians live for appearances? Their life seems like a soap bubble. The soap bubble is beautiful, with all its colors! But it lasts only a second, and then what?” he said. “Even when we look at some funeral monuments, we feel its vanity, because the truth is returning to the bare earth, as the Servant of God Paul VI said. The bare earth awaits us, this is our final truth.” “In the meantime, do I boast or do I do something? Do I do good? Do I seek God? Do I pray?” the Pope asked, urging Christians to seek these “substantial things.” Those who do not seek substantial things “will pass like all things.” Vanity is “a liar, a fantasist” that “deceives itself” and deceives the vain, he added. The vain man begins by pretending to be something, and ends by believing in his pretension. “Vanity sows wicked anxiety, takes away peace,” Pope Francis said. Vanity is like someone who puts on too much makeup and fears the rain will come and wash it away. The Pope said vain Christians sometimes say, “I am a Christian, I am related to that priest, to that sister, to that bishop; my family is a Christian family.” However, he rejected this attitude, stressing that Jesus is the only foundation for the Christian life, and that only truth yields peace. “What about your life with the Lord?” he asked. “How do you pray? Your life in the works of mercy, how’s that going? Do you visit the sick?” he asked. “Jesus tells us we must build our house — that is, our Christian life — on the rock, on the truth,” he said, noting that Jesus warned that the vain “build their house on sand, and that house falls, that Christian life falls, slips, because it is not able to resist temptations.”
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