Thursday, March 14, 2013

After All These Years, Why a Francis Now?

The guys in the coffee shop yesterday morning somehow got on the topic of country size.  “With less than 200 acres, Vatican City is the smallest,” said one.  “And the richest,” said another.
A couple of days earlier I had heard a BBC broadcast on the ongoing papal elections process --- or so it was advertised.  Instead were interviews of unhappy Irish people.  “So many priests have sexually abused children and no one did anything about it.”  “The nuns used to beat us bloody, and left us to freeze outside.”  “Is there one of the 115 who could say he hasn’t covered up sexual abuse?”  Eventually, the broadcast did touch on the conclave of cardinals, identifying one “candidate” after another, and why they are so unfit to lead the Church.  (I hadn’t heard such “unbiased” reporting since a six year old explained to me how the ice cream happened to fall to the floor “all by itself.”)
I don’t know that any man is fit, in the judgments of men, to say that he acts in the name of God.  We look at the institution of the Church, its leaders, and its riches, and WE judge:  “This is not how God wanted it.”  And in acting as a judge, we assume two critical points: WE know the rules or laws of God, and WE are just. 
We so easily judge ourselves as better than the rest.  We look at some of our small successes in life as if we were looking at gold, forgetting that even gold is just a form of earthen matter.  We think we are making ourselves as kings, but we are just kids playing in the mud, building castles of sand.  We forget that the spiritual kingdom we are talking of is not of this world, and yet we apply the world’s standards.
I know little about this new pope, Pope Francis I, but I have heard stories already of how he lived in an apartment, took a bus to work each day, and worked among the poor.  It seems like the papal name he chose fits his way of life.  Perhaps he will live that way of life in Vatican City also.  And perhaps his way may spread, even as the saint of Assisi’s way spread.  St Francis was offered the riches of the world by his father, maybe even commanded to take them by him.  Instead Francis took off all his clothes in the city square, stood naked and told his father that he neither wanted nor needed anything from him or the world.  Were this pope to do the same, would that satisfy those crying out against the Church?
I very much doubt it.
In the United States we elected a president whose campaign slogan was: “Yes, we can,” --- with an unsaid but implied: “If I lead you.”  The power of and empowering of that slogan appealed to the pride in each man: “I know the rules or laws; I am just.  Let me lead (not those other flawed individuals), and I’ll make the country --- and indeed the world, a better place.”  Yes, we can!!
I am presently reading a book by Brother Simeon (Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis) titled: Fire of Mercy.  It is a deep analysis and meditation on the original Greek words of the Gospel of Matthew.  Recently I read his meditation on the Parable of the Vineyard Workers, who went into the fields at various times of the day, yet who were all paid the same wage at the end of the day.  Br. Simeon brings out the point that Jesus makes here (and in so many other parables):  Man in his envy seeks to judge, but Jesus did not come to preach on justice or the rights of man.  Jesus came to preach love.  The vineyard workers wanted to yell at the vineyard owner: “You are unjust; these worthless bums deserve less than us.”  They didn’t get what Jesus was saying: “Don’t you see?  They are not worthless; each is worth everything to me.  And that is how they should be valued, and loved, by you too.”  The workers’ reaction was similar to the shouts of those righteous men in other parables who proclaimed: “Look at the healing work He does on the Sabbath.  Blasphemy!!”   But they didn’t see what Jesus was saying either: “Look at the love I give; it should always be given, every day, to everyone.”  They too judged, by their own standards, and did not seek to understand His.
Yes, we can?  This is the cry of those who would judge others, of those who think they know God’s justice, but they don’t know God.  They, like the vineyard workers would judge who got paid too much, and who got paid too little (themselves, of course).  They would say they know how to treat all fairly, echoing the words of Marx and Lenin, and so many others.  They would judge themselves superior in the knowledge of right and wrong, and capable of treating all people justly.  Yes, we can!
No, they can’t.
“By definition, an unchecked passion seeks to impose itself upon the world regardless of its destructiveness and untruth.  It is this failure to see the truth of things in a situation that Jesus, through the landowner, is calling ‘evil.’  Worse still, this outward projection of (the workers’) negative passion that blinds true vision has been triggered by the ‘goodness of another.’”
--- Fire of Mercy, PP 248-9
In His parables, Jesus taught us that love is the way to treat another.  Our new pope seems to understand that well.  In the world, and even in his church, however, are many who will loudly proclaim against what the Church teaches: “But that is not fair,” and seek to define a justice by their standards, their justice.  As Br. Simeon notes, even goodness can cause negative passions.  And so what will this new pope face, and how will he preach to those who would preach to him of their justice?
The original St. Francis was needed in his time, to visibly demonstrate a love lived out, what Jesus so passionately preached --- and so few understood.  Why another Francis now?  Perhaps it is time again. 
Everywhere we look we see so many slaves who would preach to the master how He should run His business, how He might serve them.  They have so much to learn, again.
Worldly power expects to be served, while divine omnipotence expects only to serve.  (P 292)
Whoever would be great among you
must be your servant,
And whoever would be first among you,
must be your slave. 
(Mt 20:26)


  1. This post is truly a gem. I now see that parable in a new light. Thanks for posting.
    I do believe it's time for another Francis, and I believe our new Pope is the man.
    Already he is being hated because he won't compromise. May God enable him with boldness.
    Have you read this transcript yet? It's a must read.

    Rush Limbaugh defends the Catholic position

  2. I think you much for the link to Rush's comments; they were great. I passed it on to some friends.

    That book I'm reading opened my eyes on the parables also. I saw it, but I never SAW it before. Maybe it was because the author was so blunt in his descriptions of what the vineyard workers were thinking: "Those other guys are bums," that opened my mind: Hey! I've heard those words before --- from Washington almost every day, and from all those who would criticize the Church. "You don't agree with me, then you're stupid. You need to change." Rush described the same thing, without using the parable.