Saturday, October 3, 2015
What Is Pope Francis' Agenda?
It seems I have heard that subject question raised on many a talk show in recent days, and on a goodly number of them even heard the answer --- they think they know what is in the pope’s mind! I, for one, do not make such presumption --- but I do believe I know what is in His heart.
The Bible study group this week focused on the many calls of Jesus to the apostles, to the disciples, and to strangers who walked up to Him. He said: Follow me. He asked them for a commitment, a change in their lives, but I also noticed that, in almost all the cases we looked at, He first spoke with them: they had a conversation.
That point struck me as a key one, and my mind wandered to the political affairs in Washington and to the cancer there which also seems to inhabit the minds of the general public: people don’t converse anymore. Maybe it started with the breakdown of the family, or perhaps it was the breakdown of faith. People may have felt they no family they could trust, or perhaps no God they could trust, and so they decided they could only trust themselves. No conversation with others was needed.
It seems that much of what does pass as conversation on complex matters these days is really not conversation --- a back and forth discussion --- but rather it is like the “discussions” we see in Congress, where person after person walks up to the microphone and gives a speech: “Hear me! Did you hear what I said? Are you convinced yet?”
That is not conversation. And as Jesus and the Gospels demonstrate, conversion --- a changing of minds and hearts --- is not something that is dictated, but rather it is something which begins with conversation. From conversation can flow trust, and from trust reasoned (together) truth, and from truth the gift of faith --- and it IS a gift. Conversion and faith are not something we can force upon someone else.
What is Pope Francis’ agenda? Well, if he indeed does have one, some master plan HE devised to convert people to his way of thinking, well then I strongly suspect he will fail. Jesus demonstrated that conversion and faith is a gift. Even the pope can’t compel people’s conversion through some master plan of his. The pope is a man with a job. Like any other man he has opinions and deep beliefs, many formed by his upbringing, and many formed in answer to his prayers. He knows his job and what it entails, and He prays that God will help him do it well. But as for his plan for success, I strongly suggest and believe that He asks God to lead, according to His plan: “Not my will, but Thy will be done in me, O Lord.”
And then the pope follows God’s inspirations and example. And certainly the pope is aware of Jesus’ example of not dictating doctrine or conversion. He didn’t order Caesar to feed the poor. He didn’t create shelves of bread in every home so no one would starve. He didn’t even demand everyone listen to Him. What He did was go to them, wherever they were, and began a conversation.
If many people want to talk about global warming, I think Pope Francis will talk to them. If they want to talk about the rich or the poor, he will talk to them. He will go to talk to them, whether in Congress or the United Nations. And from his conversations may flow other things …
Is this part of his well-thought-out “agenda”? I think not. I am not at all sure he has some complex detailed plan of action. This answer, however, almost begs another question: Well then, does GOD have some master plan? Here I am much more confident that, yes, there is a plan, although surely it is beyond my reasoning ability to fathom its depths. I think the pope believes this also, and he goes forth without having to see the end destination of his efforts in sight. He trusts.
And so I will trust. Jesus didn’t concern Himself with telling Caesar what to do, so neither will I concern myself with telling the pope what to do.
And I will give to him what is proper and due, without criticism or implication that: “I know better.”