VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Hypocrites are afraid of the truth, fearful of who they really are and incapable of truly loving, Pope Francis said during his weekly general audience.
Pictured: Pope Francis leads his general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican Aug. 25, 2021. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
What hypocrites do “is like putting makeup on your soul, like putting makeup on your behavior” and hiding the truth, the pope said Aug. 25 to those gathered in the Paul VI audience hall at the Vatican.
All this pretending, he said, “suffocates the courage to openly say what is true and thus the obligation to say the truth at all times, everywhere and in spite of anything can easily be evaded,” he said.
The pope continued his series of talks on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians and focused on the dangers of the law by looking at the apostle Peter’s “inconsistency” at Antioch.
Gentile Christians were free from the Jewish law, but there was pressure from people from Jerusalem that caused Sts. Peter and Barnabas to draw back from what the Gospel said.
That is why, in his letter, St. Paul condemns St. Peter “to his face because he clearly was wrong” by trying to appease critics who still observed Mosaic law and to justify his hypocritical behavior.
“Peter had been eating with the Christians of pagan origin without any difficulty; however, when some circumcised Christians from Jerusalem arrived in the city, he then no longer did so, because he did not want to incur their criticism,” Pope Francis said.
“Watch out. The mistake was paying more attention to the criticism, to make a good impression than the reality of the relationships,” the pope said.
This was serious in St. Paul’s eyes, because other disciples imitated St. Peter, and, even though he did not mean to, “Peter was, in fact, creating an unjust division within the community” by not being transparent or clear about what he was doing, Pope Francis said.
In his letter, St. Paul “wanted to remind the Christians of that community that they were absolutely not to listen to those who were preaching that it was necessary to be circumcised, and therefore be ‘under the law’ with all of its prescriptions,” Pope Francis said.
These “fundamentalist preachers,” he said, “created confusion and deprived that community of any peace.”
In his reproach to St. Peter, St. Paul uses the term “hypocrisy,” which “the apostle wanted to combat forcefully and convincingly,” the pope said.
Hypocrisy can be seen as a “fear of the truth. It is better to pretend rather than be yourself,” he said.