Sunday, February 7, 2016
A posted question:".. .what do the rank and file clergy 'think' of Pope Francis? I know there are several layers of organization between you and the leaders. But how do the clergy react to this Pope? I'm sure you have seen how lay people sometimes respond to Pope. Statements like dogs can go to heaven (love it) or you can go into the forest to worship, not only a church." The clergy with whom I primarily have contact are directly involved in pastoral ministry, which means directly involved with the critical spiritual concerns of the people of God. While I can speak only of my own thoughts about Pope Francis, I have found wide agreement among fellow priests in pastoral ministry. I can also understand the fears and concerns of 'careerist' clergy. When Pope Francis left the United States after his visit in September, someone commented that during his six days with us, the entire nation was on retreat! That seems to be the feeling he generates everywhere he goes, not only because of what he says, but because of his obvious love of all people. If only I can show his energy and compassion when I reach his age! I think he has untied the knots that have been so much a part of our religion. The word religion is rooted in the word for binding, but there are at least two ways to do so: a parent or lover binds to another person by holding his or her hand; a pirate would bind someone by tying them to a mast! Basically, it's a mater of whether the emphasis is on rules or on relationships. It has been a while since I and others have experienced a pope for whom relationship takes precedence. His two encyclicals, his speeches and challenges to the world's bishops and political leaders reaffirms this order. He wants shepherds who smell like the sheep! While he hasn't changed ant Church law or doctrine, he has put much of it in a context that both explains it and generates discussion and places emphasis on the primacy of conscience. He not giving blank checks, but he's not bouncing them either! He has declared this year to be the year of mercy. Mercy is the foundation of human life and our relationship with God and each other. So far, I have found preaching and counseling from the perspective of mercy to be exciting and very well received. I have found Pope Francis to be exciting and very well received too! I am very grateful to be living in his time. No matter his successor, what impact he has made on the Church in these past few years can hardly be undone! God's Spirit called him. We are the beneficiaries of his answer to that call.
It has been 2 1/2 years since I have posted an entry on my blog, for reasons I might some day reveal. Some folks have asked me to start it up again, so here goes! This entry is a reflection on the lectionary readings of Sunday, February 7, 2015. I have to write them out anyway to translate them to Spanish, so I'll probably share them in this way from time to time. I will also pst on face book when I have a new one. Thanks for your interest!
Unclean, Unworthy and Sinful Lips
Isaiah said: I am a man of unclean lips. He was right.
Paul said: I am the least of the apostles and not worthy to be called an apostle. He was right.
Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man. He was right.
These three men knew who they were, and they thought that because of who they were they were unworthy to be in the presence of God and to do what God had asked of them. But what they learned is that worthiness has nothing to do with gods love. No one is worthy. God loves everyone, Regardless of his or her sin.
We all know that we are sinners. Perhaps like Adam and Eve we want to hide ourselves in shame. But that is not what God wants. God is love, and so God must love. We were created to be one with God, so God will do everything God can do to make us one. It is up to us whether or not to cooperate.
When the angel touched Isaiah’s lips, that did not make Isaiah worthy. When Paul was knocked off of the horse and converted, that did not make Paul worthy. When Peter was told to get up and follow Jesús, that did not mean that Peter had become worthy. Rather, for all three, it meant that they were ready to do what God asked of them. God wants us as we are.
This is the year of mercy. Lent starts this week. Normally in Lent we give something up, like television or dessert or candy. But Pope Francis is asking us this year to not give anything up. Rather he is asking us to grow in being merciful. He is asking us to practice ways to accept God’s mercy toward us and to learn how to show that mercy to others.
Psychologists say that it takes about six weeks to change a habit or to learn a new one. Lent is six weeks long. So if we are faithful and thorough, by Easter we should know mercy. We should know how to love regardless of circumstances. We should know how to forgive and free ourselves of grudges. We should know that worthiness is not a requirement for love or mercy.
We know that ours is not a world of mercy. Listen to the politicians. Some want to keep out the stranger, some want to kill everybody who might belong to a group that includes people we fear. Some want to show mercy only to the richest of people. Ours is not a world of mercy.
But we don’t have to be formed by that world. We can spend the period of lent learning how to live in the world of mercy and love. We can practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. We pray for and, if we can, visit the sick and imprisoned. We play some role in feeding the hungry. We welcome the stranger.
If we are faithful to this task during lunch, then by Easter we will rise with Christ as people of mercy. We may not receive mercy in return from those to whom we show it, but we will be assured that God’s love and mercy will always be with us.
THERE ARE SEVEN CORPORAL WORKS OF MERCY
- Feed the hungry
- Give drink to the thirsty
- Clothe the naked
- Shelter the homeless
- Visit the sick
- Visit the imprisoned
- Bury the dead
THERE ARE SEVEN SPIRITUAL WORKS OF MERCY
- Admonish the sinner
- Instruct the ignorant
- Counsel the doubtful
- Bear wrongs patiently
- Forgive offenses willingly
- Comfort the afflicted
- Pray for the living and the dead