Francis remembers a woman from his neighborhood, bullied by the local children.
Drawing from the First Reading of today’s liturgy as celebrated in Rome, from 1 Samuel, about how Peninnah scorned and humiliated Hannah on account of her infertility, the pope noted how there are many similar Bible stories, which recount an attitude of scorn and contempt. He mentioned the story of Abraham’s wives, Hagar and Sarah, or Goliath ridiculing David, or how 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 need to ridicule another person in order to feel confident. As if it were a necessity…”
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 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 overweight 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.”
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.”
“Let us ask the Lord to give us the grace of God’s compassion,” Pope Francis concluded. “He is the One who has compassion on us and helps us to move forward.”