Sunday, September 22, 2013

What Pope Francis Really Said

“God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God.  There is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus…” (1 Timothy 2:3-5)

A lot of was made this past week about the interview Pope Francis granted to Jesuit magazines.  It is a long and fascinating interview that I encourage all Catholics to read because it offers a personal glimpse into the heart of our Holy Father and his dreams for the Church.  Of course the media focused on 30 or so words of the 12,000 word interview probably without reading the whole thing.  I could not stop reading the interview once it came out and was transfixed by everything the Pope had to say.  Let me give you a priest’s point of view without the filter of the secular media.

The interview began with a very simple question posed to the Holy Father:  “Who is Jorge Mario Bergolio?”  The interviewer said that the Pope paused and answered quite simply: “I am a sinner.”  A reporter asked me on Thursday how can the Pope say that if he is infallible.  I reminded her that the Pope is only infallible when teaching on matters of faith and morals speaking ex-cathedra in communion with the bishops.  But Jorge Bergolio, the man, is fallible, and he confirmed it when he identified himself as a sinner, just like you and me.  Right there, the Holy Father embraces the poverty that the readings call us to this morning.  But he goes further later on in the article when he basically repeats something that St. Paul alludes to in the second reading when he says where the Church needs to direct its energies.  Pope Francis says:  “The most important thing is the first proclamation:  Jesus Christ has saved you!”  Let’s start from there.  He said this was important because sometimes we corner ourselves into issues, that while important, may distract someone from the central tenet of our faith: Jesus saves!  When we come to grips with the fact that God sent his Son into the world to save us,  when we immerse himself in the Son who is the Way, the TRUTH, and the life, then we will be more willing to immerse ourselves in that Truth.

Our Holy Father sees the Church as a field hospital after battle that treats the wounded:  “I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful…I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds....”  Heal the wounds!   He talked about priests having to be ministers of mercy.  As confessors, we don’t ask how you arrived in the confessional, we’re just happy you’re there so that we can dispense God’s mercy and heal your wounds.  It is only then that we can delve deeper into the cause of those wounds, but it must always be done walking and getting to know the person of Jesus Christ who must be the center of our lives.  The Pope doesn’t change doctrine.  He doesn’t say anything new.  He just wants us to keep our eyes fixed on the Lord.  The great papal biographer George Weigel wrote this week in a superb column:  “Francis believes and professes all that the Catholic Church believes and professes to be true about the moral life, the life that leads to happiness and beatitude. But he also understands that men and women are far more likely to embrace those moral truths — about the inalienable right to life from conception until natural death; about human sexuality and how it should be lived — when they have first embraced Jesus Christ as Lord.” 

And there you have it.  Our Holy Father embracing his sinfulness, embracing his mission as the Vicar of Christ and announcing what the Church’s priorities have to be.  It’s what they’ve always been:  lives centered on the person of Jesus Christ.  The Lord says at the end of today’s gospel that we cannot serve two masters.  Pope Francis leads by example so clearly by living a life of simplicity, spending an hour each night in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, and proclaiming the living Christ above all else.  We are challenge to make Jesus Christ the center of our lives in this world that values power, riches, and pleasure above all else which is why we must embrace this spiritual poverty that leads us to only rely on our Lord.  What a gift we have in our Holy Father who keeps pointing us to the greatest of all gifts:  Jesus Christ!

(I encourage you to read the entire interview of Pope Francis from America Magazine at: