Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Pope Francis Makes Me Ashamed


I didn't feel ashamed when he said that atheists can go to heaven. I didn't feel ashamed when he said gays are okay. But I felt ashamed when Pope Francis said this:
"We cannot become starched Christians, too polite, who speak of theology calmly over tea."
Because that's me. Substitute coffee for tea, and I would happily sit and sip a tasty beverage while chatting about theology all day long.

Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict didn't make me feel ashamed of myself. I could understand most of what they wrote, so I figured that made me pretty smart. I don't remember them ever saying that being smart and knowing theology just wasn't good enough. I don't remember them saying, as Pope Francis did, that we must go out and touch the poor, touch them with our own hands:

“Do you give alms?
“They tell me, ‘Yes, Father.’
“And when you give alms do you look in the eyes of the people you give them to?
'Oh, I don’t know, I don’t notice.’
“Look, he has not met the people. He threw the alms and left. When he gives the alms, does his hand touch (the hand of the poor) or does he toss the coin?”
“No, you throw the coin. And you have not touched, and if you did not touch him, you did not meet him.”

Pope Francis makes me confront the ugly fear I have of the poor, the sad and dying, the criminal -- the "other." I never wanted to practice criminal law after graduating from law school, because I didn't want to be near criminals. If I defended them and they were dissatisfied with the defense, I reasoned, they would kill me. If I prosecuted them and sent them to jail, they would have someone else kill me.

Pope Francis' courage shows me how mistaken I am in my fear. Pope Francis might have looked afraid when greeting the thousands waiting in Vatican Square to shout his name as the new pope. But he has gone to the prisons and the slums and the streets without fear.

Pope Francis has destroyed my fantasy that Jesus' call to visit those in prison applies only to those wrongly imprisoned, like political prisoners or people jailed for their Christian beliefs. Pope Francis has wrecked my certainty that I have satisfied my obligation to feed the hungry and clothe the naked by feeding my own children and clothing their nakedness. He has undermined my self-satisfaction in the amount of money we tithe. There are more people to serve. There is more work to do.

Pope Francis makes me ashamed because he makes me realize that I am not half as good a Christian as I think I am. But that is not a reason for despair. It's a call to action.

19 comments:

  1. I completely agree with you on this one. I would reword it to say that he does not make me feel ashamed and just say that I feel ashamed because I had to hear The Pope tell me this, something that I should have already known. Yes, he reminds me that no matter how much "good" I think I am doing, I could always be doing more. It is not about giving. Giving is not enough, you have to give with love, and to love you have to be close enough to look into the person's eyes close enough to touch them.
    Thanks for the wonderful post.

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    1. You're exactly right, Jeff, it's a feeling that I should have already known this. Thanks for your comment!

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  2. Hay que saber interpretar bien estas palabras, me parece que primeramente tenemos que rezar, luego se podría ser educado, hablar de teología con calma y tomando té, para así estar mejor preparados y salir para la acción. Creo que una cosa no se contradice con otra.

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    1. La oración, la educación, y la acción, todas son importantes. Mi problema es que suelo enfocar demaciado en la educación y no bastante en la oración y la acción.

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    2. "God helps those who help themselves". Karee Okay, thank you and congratulations for your nice message.

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  3. Hello. I understand what you mean, but, Pope Francis did not say that atheists are going to heaven. He simply said all have been redeemed, which does not mean that we are all saved... but that we have the ability to be saved if we accept the graces given to us from Christ. ...unless of course ya have a Protestant once-saved-always-saved understanding or are a unitarian heretic like Thomas Jefferson (not saying you are, of course :) ).
    Needless to say, the media had a field-day with that.
    Your comment about gays isn't quite accurate either... he said that if they are seeking God, who is he to judge. I believe this was in relation to a clergyman who is homosexual but living a chaste life according to the teachings of the Church.
    Just wanted to be clear on those points you brought up, because many take the media's fallacious assertions to heart, and are given the wrong impression.

    God bless

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    1. Daniel, thanks for the clarification! Issues like atheism and homosexuality are definitely too complicated to be summed up in short sound-bites.

      Whereas previous popes might have projected the attitude of hate the sin, love the sinner, Pope Francis seems to focus more on the message of loving the sinner, and only secondarily hating the sin. But ultimately it's the same doctrine, just a different way of presenting it.

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  4. Yes!!!!! Never before have I ever felt more convicted. Pope Francis is the pope for today. I am filled with hope and love. I'm excited!

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    1. That's great! And I love your user name. Maybe I should change mine to 6kids1mom. ;)

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  5. Excellent post! I agree with 4kids1mom, Pope Francis is the pope for today!

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  6. "There, but for the grace of God, go I." We like to think we would never be that way, but life and death events, decrepit surroundings and depression lead to many lowered standards one may have had. I find in my own life God is teaching me humility and understanding of how people get to what we perceive to be more degraded lives because it has happened to me somewhat but on a less scale. I know some of the most "degraded" people will be rewarded in heaven more than me since some can be so giving and uplifting to their fellow man by manner or deed.

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    1. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. You're right, we never know what circumstances we might find ourselves in.

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  7. Karee,

    What do you think Pope Francis means when he says "starched Christian"? Because the way I look at it, when he connects "starched" and "calmly" is not that we should be ignorant of theology, but rather the opposite. I think he means we should not lose our 'color' as Christians, or our zeal for truth. In my own experience, I have never sat calmly and drank tea with someone while having a theological debate. It usually becomes heated pretty fast and I forget about the tea. This does not mean that we lose respect for each other's opinions, but the other person will see that I am very passionate about what I believe in. And when truth is spoken, it sticks! I have been reading a lot of media coverage on Pope Francis' statements, and it seems like a lot of what he says is being taken out of context. For example, when he quoted about gays; in context you could see where he was going with his statement "who am I to judge" but taking out that one sentence, it makes him seem like he is changing how the Church has viewed gays for centuries; he upholds truth, but does so with great love so as to bring others to Christ through looking at the individual's sin and not the individual. We are not necessarily used to the way Pope Francis speaks, since it is much more simple than the last two popes, but I do think he is just trying to help people see what Jesus meant more so when He stated "I desire mercy, not sacrifice" a billion times in the Gospel of Matthew. Christ wants us to love greatly, but to speak truth fervently. I feel it is a lot of times a really hard balance to combine the two! Thoughts?

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    1. I think we speak calmly about theology when we talk to our in-group, with people who already believe the way we believe and see things the same way we do. Debate can certainly get heated when we talk to people who are not in our in-group. That's what the Pope is encouraging us to do -- interact with people we might normally pass by.

      But debate is not necessarily the way to convince the "other." Creating a deep on-going human connection will do more in the long run. Not to talk to people or about them, but to listen to them. There's a reason, usually a deeply personal one, why people have developed certain feelings or beliefs about God and why they've made certain lifestyle choices. They won't necessarily reveal that in the context of a debate. And without touching that inner core of belief, no change is possible.

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  8. I was afraid to look in the eyes of a bagger, or a sick person.
    Not anymore.

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    1. Pope Francis is so inspiring, isn't he? Thanks so much for commenting, Jenny, and please visit again.

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