Have I mentioned how impressed I am by Pope Francis? When he was first named pope last March he made it clear that, with him as Pope, things were going to be different. Once the conclave had decided, the Master of Ceremonies came forward with the traditional papal red cape trimmed with ermine. Pope Francis declined to wear it (a first) saying, “No thank you, Monsignore, you put it on instead. Carnival time is over!”
He is the first member of the Jesuit order to be named pope in their 500 year history. (What’s a Jesuit?) The Jesuits are known for embracing a life of poverty and standing in solidarity with the poor and the marginalized and Pope Francis has continued this practice. When he was installed as Pope he told his fellow bishops from Argentina not to bother attending the ceremony. “Save the air fare and give it to the poor.” He has since declined the use of the Vatican Papal apartments, using servants quarters instead. When visiting Buenos Aires this summer he left the pope-mobile behind and rode the bus.
A couple of weeks ago I saw a picture taken at a teen conference. A group of teens took a selfie with the pope (see above). Then last week I read about a woman who received a call from the Pope. A few months ago she was is a desperate situation. She was pregnant with a married man’s baby and this man was pressuring her to have an abortion. She didn’t know what else to do so she wrote the pope explaining that she was going to keep the baby but didn’t know if she could stand up under the pressure. A few weeks later he called her at home and encouraged her, thanking her for not aborting her baby.
Now this week, in an interview with a Catholic Magazine, the Pope said that Catholics “must shake off its obsession with teachings on abortion, contraception and homosexuality and become more merciful.” A spokesperson for the Catholic church says this statement represents a change of tone and not a change of position for the church which is a remarkable statement. There is no change in the teaching of the Catholic church but there is a desire to place the focus somewhere new. Whether it’s a change in tone or position, one thing is for sure, it sure sounds a lot like Jesus.
Protestants need to perk up there ears here too. We also need to work harder at being defined by what we support, instead of being caricatured by what we oppose. I hope someday, when I am gone, my kids and my grandkids can reflect affectionately on what I supported, and what I contributed to, rather than what I opposed and what I argued against. How about you? Are you known for what you support or what you oppose? What did Jesus tell his followers to be known for?
- “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” Matt 10:42
- “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matt 25: 40
- “…give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Mark 10:21
- “…when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14:12-14
Pope Francis also sounds like the apostle James who said, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27 When the leader of a church with 1.2 billion members speaks like this, that is a game changer!