It’s easy to understand why some people claim to be “spiritual, but not religious.”

In the hands of Pharisees and harsh lawyers, religion favors the letter of the law over justice and love. It concerns itself with recognition rather than humble service. It keeps score versus setting people free.

Jesus rebukes the legalistic religious leaders of his time for misleading the people in God’s ways.

We must be careful, however, not to throw religion out with misguided religious leaders. We’d also do well to reflect on our own human frailty when it comes to self-importance and judgmentalism.

During his US visit, Pope Francis revealed the beauty of religion with his humility and joy. Beyond celebrating Masses and prayer services, he broke bread with the homeless, visited with school children, ministered to the incarcerated. He addressed Congress and the UN about peace and environmental justice. He embraced anyone and everyone.

Today let’s follow Saint Ignatius’s advice: “love ought to show itself in deeds more than in words.”

—Jeremy Langford is the director of communications for the Midwest Jesuits, founding editor of, and author of Seeds of Faith: Practices to Grow a Healthy Spiritual Life ©2007 Paraclete Press, Brewster, MA.