We are much too accustomed to thinking in the way our sound bite culture teaches us. On the other hand, thinking like Christ is a radically difficult and subtle task. Christ is truth himself and what we must be focused on above all else is an encounter with his person, the second person of the Holy Trinity. We very often settle on simple understandings and us vs. them structures of knowledge and experience. An experience of Christ, from the little that I know about him, does not give us old tired knowledge and old tired battles to hang our hats on. Christ does not fight in the trenches the world attempts to dictate to him and to his followers. He is God and he is all powerful and when his followers are true to him they take on a similar power.
When the word came out that Pope Francis had said we cannot become obsessed with certain moral issues my heart knew that he was speaking from a depth of wisdom that the world would not understand. And as Catholics we have too long been allowing the world to dictate the terms of the battle, we have foolishly met the world on its terms, becoming obsessed with certain moral issues without speaking about them in a way that integrates them into an understanding of and an experience of ENCOUNTER WITH CHRIST.
We cannot listen to media reports of the Pope’s words, but must rather listen to his words from the heart and mind of the Church. Here are some of his words from the interview:
“The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”
The key word here is disjointed, and not obsessed. We all heard the media barrage that the Pope had said we cannot be “obsessed” with abortion, but the more important word was the qualifier in the passage. A disjointed multitude of doctrines are teachings that have become cut off from the heart of Christ and thus from the heart of the Church’s wisdom. Instead of speaking about abortion and homosexuality from the heart of a loving Church we have too often fell into speaking about these issues in a non-integrated way.
In order to do justice to these issues we must speak about them from a Church focused completely on encounter with the person of Jesus Christ. This means we must also be focused on an encounter with every individual for we cannot be true to a relationship with Christ without reaching out to every human being that he died to redeem.
The truth is that we so often fall short of this imperative! We fall into a worldly way of talking about these issues, we fall into reactionary modes of response with the world rather than witnessing the truths of Christian doctrine in a living, dynamic, hopeful, and challenging way. Satan wants us to reduce these issues, he wants us to fight about them like the world fights. Why? Because it is in this way that Satan can rob Christians of their power. By reducing the Christian message to a fragmentary moralizing rant he is able to get Christians to neglect encounter with Christ. And if we neglect encounter with Christ every doctrine no matter how true becomes just another stone to be thrown in the trenches of cultural warfare. If we listen to the Holy Father’s words of wisdom we will see that he is calling us to integrate these very issues into an appeal to the world. This appeal includes encounter with Christ as the centerpiece and all encompassing organizing principle of Christian evangelism.
And this is nothing new indeed! But Pope Francis is not afraid to speak to us in a way that unsettles us, in a way that actually forces us to take a good hard look at our many failures so as to open them as wounds to the blood and water that flows forth in all power from within the heart of Mother Church to heal us.
Praise God for Francis! Lets remember to listen and to learn and not to worry so much about media noise. Instead lets pay attention to what our teacher has to say, and what he is trying to teach us. In doing this we will be listening to Christ himself through his Vicar on earth.