Something that has been getting under my skin lately is this new pope! Before, getting into why, to settle any apprehension, I love and support our Holy Father. I have some thoughts, though, on why he has caused a bit of a rise in me, just as he has with many others.
I find in the famous interview so many have commented on, quoted to support gay marriage, and written articles about, the reasons this pope has caused a positive tension within me. In this interview Pope Francis calls the Church to reach out to our suffering brothers and sisters, to reach out to those who do not know the treasure of the faith, and to accompany them in their walk of faith. With these calls, Pope Francis challenges me and gets at the “older son” in me.
At one point in his interview Pope Francis talks of the danger for a confessor to be either a rigorist or too lax. He points out neither exemplify the love and mercy of God, for neither takes responsibility for the person. Both seem to wash their hands of the person. One leaves the person with the commandment to condemn or redeem and the other brushes it off saying it wasn’t a big deal. Neither employs a personal commitment. Our Catholic faith is about salvation. Jesus came to seek the lost and heal the sick. Just as Jesus comes and accompanies each person starting with where they are at and leading them to live in a closer relationship with God, I am called to do the same. The Church’s focus should not remain in self-preservation. The Church is missionary, called to prolong the work of Jesus in the world.
This focus challenges my own complacency. It doesn’t allow me to remain satisfied with following all the rules and staying within the lines. It creates a healthy tension to ask me what I am doing to live out this mission Jesus inaugurated – this mission of evangelization. It doesn’t allow me to remain satisfied with merely passing the suffering by, giving them the right answers of how to live a Christian life. I am called to accompany others – prayer, patience, listening, sacrifice. To be so interested in their good that I will make their sufferings and joys my own.
Pope Francis’ focus also calls me to remember God is merciful. God accepts and embraces me with all of my sinfulness. God does and will accept and embrace my fallen brothers and sisters. God’s mercy is a beautiful reality but it can also be challenging. As a Catholic who has always had the grace to uphold and support Church teaching for the most part, I can feel a little bit of the “older son” in me wanting to react when the pope calls for love and openness to people who live in a contrary way. I am reminded of the Father’s response to his older son, “You have been with me always. Everything I have is yours.” I hear an invitation from the Father to share with him all he has – to share the joy of welcoming and embracing all of his children who are being found.
How reassuring it is to have the leader of the Catholic faith speaking about love, mercy, proclaiming the gospel, evangelizing, praying, and caring for others. He is reminding me of the proper context and what should be the motivating force of my Christian life