The Pope made this reflection during his morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, according to Vatican Radio.
The First Reading of today's Mass speaks of King Antiochus Epiphanes, referring to him as a "sinful offshoot" or a root of evil, who imposes pagan customs on the Chosen People.
Pope Francis commented that, "the image of the root is under the ground." The "phenomenology of the root" is this: "What is not seen does not seem to do any harm, but then it grows and shows its true nature."
The Holy Father noted that it was a "rational root," pushing the Israelites to ally with neighboring nations for protection.
“Let us go and make an alliance with the Gentiles all around us; since we separated from them, many evils have come upon us," the reading says.
The Pope explained this reading with three words: "Worldliness, apostasy, persecution."
Worldliness in life is to do what the world does. It’s saying: "We put up for auction our identity card; we are equal to everyone. " Thus, as the reading recounts, many Jews "disowned the faith and 'abandoned the holy covenant.'" And what "seemed so rational - 'we are like everyone else, we are normal' - became their destruction."
"Then the king recommended that his whole kingdom should be one people - the one thought; worldliness - and each abandoned their own customs. All peoples adapted themselves to the orders of the king; also many Jews accepted his worship: they sacrificed to idols and profaned the Sabbath. Apostasy. That is, worldliness that leads you to one unique thought, and to apostasy. No differences are permitted: all are equal. And in the history of the Church, the history we have seen, I think of a case, where religious feasts were renamed - the birth of the Lord has another name – in order to erase its identity."
In Israel the books of the law were burned "and if someone obeyed the law, the judgment of the king condemned him to death." That's "persecution," initiated by a "root of bitterness," Francis said.
"I have always been struck," the Pope remarked, "that the Lord, at the Last Supper, in that long prayer, praying for unity [asks] the Father that he would deliver them from every spirit of the world, from all worldliness, because worldliness destroys identity; worldliness leads to the single thought."
"It starts from a root, but it is small, and ends up an abomination of desolation, in persecution. This is the deception of worldliness, and why Jesus asked the Father, at that Supper: 'Father, I do not ask you to remove them from the world, but keep them from the world,' this mentality, this humanism, which is to take the place of the true man, Jesus Christ, that comes to take away the Christian identity and brings us to the single thought: 'They all do it, why not us?' This, in these times, should make us think: what is my identity? Is it Christian or worldly? Or do I say to myself, 'Christian because I was baptized as a child or was born in a Christian country, where everyone is Christian?' Worldliness that comes slowly, it grows, it justifies itself and infects: it grows like the root, it defends itself - 'but, we do as others do, we are not so different' - always looking for a justification, and eventually it becomes contagious, and many evils come from there."
"The liturgy, in these last days of the liturgical year," said the Pope, exhorts us to beware of "poisonous roots" that "lead away from the Lord."
"And we pray to the Lord for the Church, that the Lord will guard it from all forms of worldliness. That the Church will always have the identity given to it by Jesus Christ; that we will all have the identity that we received in baptism. May the Lord give us the grace to maintain and preserve our Christian identity against the spirit of worldliness that always grows, justifies itself and is contagious. "