March 24, 2013

Sanctifying Sunday: Pope Francis Take 2

Matt again. Enjoy. I always do :). 
I'm excited about this new pontiff.  He's surpassed my hesitant expectations already.  I'm ready to take all of my betting chips and "push all in on him."  There's a couple of reasons for this.

First, his choosing the name Francis is a great start.  I couldn't imagine a better intercessor for our time than the humble poverello.  Certainly in these complicated times the world needs the simple message of the Gospel.  Fr. Benedict Groeschel told me on the phone the other day that it is a poor Church that is needed.  Saint John Chrysostom, the "golden tongue," said something of the same effect.  This quote is loose, "Why adorn the altar with gold chalices and the like while the poor go hungry in the streets and dressed in rags."

Next, his disposition is a great start too.  I've heard various accounts of humble beginnings.  Some of my favorites are losing those silly red Versaci shoes. It's not a commentary on previous popes who have worn them, for heavens sake my favorite pair of shoes are my red vans...Hypocrisy at its best!
Pope Francis also chooses to pay for his own hotel room, and chooses not to sit on the "high throne" but goes onto the floor, the same level, to greet the cardinals.  I heard about JP2's similar antics and the way the safety details would have to scramble to protect him... I'm sure this kind of stuff will be dialed down.  But at least it has to be dialed down and I'm sure it'll be reluctantly accepted.  Also, as a Cardinal refusing the palacial palace and living in a simple apartment and taking the bus, not the limo, to work!  Pope Francis actually told Argentinians NOT to travel to Rome and instead take that money and donate it to the poor!

That leads me to my next most exciting point.

His focus on the poor is exhilerating.  Now, there are much better commentators out there than me and I'm excited to hear them start to break this open, or peel the layers back and boil this down.

Here's a side note.  Maybe it's too poignant or not PC (politically catholic), but if I heard one more reference of the "Church's Princess" I was going to go crazy.  Does the world need to think of us as having princes? I'm pretty sure that if I was elected or cardinated or whatever happens, my first decree would be to NOT, under penalty of severe sin, call me a "prince" or to kiss my ring.  Again, it's not a commentary on individual cardinal's preferences or even if you like these customs, it's just not what we need right now.  I don't recall Jesus demanding titles of respect or positions of superiority-- remember, sit at the foot of the table and not the head?

But, back to the poor thing. In my opinion, Pope Francis has done a wonderful bait and switch, which will be either confirmed or denied as time passes.  Soon, the world will realize that he has in fact made the poor of the world the "princes" of the church.

This emphasis on the materially poor has caught the world's attention.  Of course the Church is, or should be, the Church of the poor.  But, poverty does not exclude those with more in their bank accounts.  It actually includes them, and maybe includes them even more than the physical poor.  I can hear Mother Theresa speaking of the spiritually poor, dare I ad lib, and add that the materially rich are more poor and need Jesus MORE?!!?!!

St. Francis' insight into the poverty of people was two fold.  First, the poor man recognized the plight of the material poor.  Jesus' command is clear in MT 25 and Francis' embrace of the leper is of iconic measure.  The story goes that after being repulsed by lepers his whole life and often running in the other direction from them, but he is finally coerced by grace and when embraces a leper he sees Jesus!  
So we too have this call.

Secondly, St. Francis, the poor man, recognized the plight of EVERYONE!  Everyone is poor.  And this is where I think it gets really exciting.  The sooner the modern advanced superior FIRST world comes to realize that we are all poor, the sooner the simple yet transforming message of the Gospel can begin to dramatically change hearts.  God is a great GIVER & wants to give all things that are GOOD.

Everyone is poor because ultimately nothing is ours.  Everything has been given as gift.   Here's the radical bridge linking JP2's pontificate and Francis' pontificate.  It's the law of the GIFT.  Everything has been given as gift to us, even our lives, and the law of the gift is simple.  If you want to possess your gift you will lose your gift, but if you want to embrace your gift you must give it away!  Love is diffusive of itself & holds nothing back.

As St. Francis would say, "We are all beggars before God."  Another little antidote for pride from St. Francis is, "The only thing that we truly possess are our sins."  Lastly, "What we are before God is what we are nothing more and nothing less."  Maybe it's that balance that will open the door ways to peoples hearts- to not think too much of ourselves, or to not think too less of ourselves.  Maybe to recognize that we are all royalty of the King- that we are all prince or princess, we are all POORLY RICH!!!


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