A rather alarming statement was made to me today in the midst of an otherwise pleasant conversation, and in church, no less! I’m sure my immediate response momentarily surprised the person making it almost a much as her comment irritated me. She was excited about the election of our new Pope Francis, and we shared stories about where we were & what we were doing when we heard the good news, a very typical exchange. But, when she began to say, “I’m so happy! He’s a conservative; he’s against gay marriage…” That’s when I immediately cut her off and said, “I don’t care what a person is against, I care about what he is for!” And then I made my list, “He’s a Jesuit, he is a humble & simple man, and he’s all about social justice issues. That’s what’s important to me.”
After I wished her a good day & left the church, I couldn’t stop thinking about her statement, “He’s a conservative.” What the heck does that mean? It borders on slander! If the Pope is supposed to continue the mission of Christ here on earth as a disciple, and the Pope is to be the spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church, then he is expected to reflect the love of Christ to all of God’s children. That means everyone! If one reads the gospels, leaving behind their own “conservative” agenda, then it becomes quite clear that Jesus was anything but a conservative. He was a radical! He hung out with the most marginalized & unloved people of his time because they were most in need of His love & grace. If Jesus came in the midst of our times I’m sure he’d be wearing a t-shirt with a rainbow on it, and not because he knows a guy named Noah! Come to think of it, he might just wear a t-shirt with “WWJD” on the front just to confuse people.
Last night I was at my parish’s Lenten Mission. The speaker for this year’s Mission was Dr. Jack Buchner from Baltimore. He spoke about different kinds of loss. It was very good, and I am sorry to say that I wasn’t able to make the first two nights. Some of what he said I knew either through my own discovery or because I had heard it or read it before, but he clarified a simple truth about reflecting on Jesus’ Passion. Dr. Buchner highlighted three words we all know that can help us in the every day “losses” or “Good Friday’s” that we all experience in our lifetimes: Faith, hope, and love. When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane, he prayed to his Father in Heaven to have this “cup” taken from him. He didn’t want to die (who does?), especially the unimaginable death of crucifixion? But then he turned his will over to God in faith. He did this with hope in his heart that his Father had a plan and would see him through this terrible ordeal. Why? Because Jesus understood that he was loved! Apparently Dr. Buchner talked about “Knowing Who We Are” on Monday night. Who are we? We are all children of God, and we are all greatly loved! Jesus was informed by love in his act of faith and his hope in God.
When St. Paul writes about love in 1 Corinthians (1 Cor. 13: 1-13), he speaks of faith, hope, and love. He describes what love is not, and how faith, hope, and love are connected, but love is the greatest of the three. Every time I read this scripture, I am humbled by its simple message. I need to read this passage more often. It gets at the heart of Jesus’ message, and it gets at the heart of what being a Christian is all about. Love. In the above link to this passage from St. Paul, I encourage you to read the footnotes & reflect on this chapter. The scripture and the footnotes help us to understand who we are, the beloved children of God, and how we are to act; every action informed by love.
As long as there are frightened, arrogant, self-righteous Catholics spreading their brand of heresy (yes, I used the “h” word!), we will continue to see our churches and schools close due to diminishing numbers, vocations will continue to decline, and the faithful (in this Year of Faith) will continue to lose their faith, and then their hope. Perhaps then those of us informed by Christ’s love would be able to continue His good & radical works of mercy, justice, and love. Who knows? Maybe that’s God’s plan after all, but then that’s another piece of scripture & who am I to presume to know God’s plans?
As for our new Pope, I hope & pray that he remains committed to social justice. I pray that he can renew our church and finally drag her into the new millennium (conservatives & radicals alike). Perhaps when Francis I retires he will have paved the way for a new Pope Mary II or a Catherine Siena I. Wouldn’t that be radical!