Monday, April 29, 2013

The Unmistakable New Voice of Pope Francis

The Church is a mother, not a babysitter. The Church is a "love story."

God is a person, not a mist or a "God spray."

Christians must avoid the "dark joy" of gossip.

And yes, pessimism, cynicism and calumny are from Satan.

In case anyone managed to miss it, these comments cement the obvious: the world has a new pope.

At first I wondered if the colorful language Pope Francis has employed in his homilies and audiences wasn't some side effect of a native Spanish speaker preaching in Italian and then getting translated into English. But it soon became clear that the pope's flair for evocative imagery and unique phrases is something meant to cut across languages, not the result of being mangled by them.

Pope Francis uses vivid, at times unexpected language to challenge, inspire and otherwise get his point across. Often bluntly. Sometimes humorously. Always memorably.

It was evident from the beginning in the now public "Bergoglio intervention." Given by the soon-to-be pope at the cardinals' daily meetings before the conclave, he argued against "theological narcissism" and a Church that is "self-referential." Like Cardinal Ratzinger's "dictatorship of relativism" in 2005, these words probably helped elect him. Pope Francis, however, focuses his critique not on the modern world, but on the Church's response, saying Christians must go out into the world, even to its margins (phrasing that has cropped up in subsequent homilies and even tweets).

Pope Francis' talks are marked not by theological narcissism but by examples of daily life. He quotes his grandmother. He compares Heaven to getting cataract surgery. He addresses Catholic life at the parish level. He cuts across cultural and ideological lines and simultaneously comforts and challenges practically everyone in his path. He does this so deftly that he's even proved to be a good fit for Twitter. It's difficult to imagine someone being more inspirational in 140 characters. Rather than analyze this point to death, here are some highlights:

True power is service.  The Pope must serve all people, especially the poor, the weak, the vulnerable. (March 19)

We must not believe the Evil One when he tells us that there is nothing we can do in the face of violence, injustice and sin. (March 24)

Being with Jesus demands that we go out from ourselves, and from living a tired and habitual faith. (March 27)

To experience Holy Week is to enter more and more into God's logic of love and self-giving. (also March 27)

Accept the risen Jesus into your life. Even if you have been far away, take a small step towards him: he awaits you with open arms. (March 31)

God loves us.  We must not be afraid to love him.  The faith is professed with the lips and with the heart, through words and through love. (April 4)

How beautiful is the gaze with which Jesus regards us – how full of tenderness!  Let us never lose trust in the patience and mercy of God. (April 7)

Being a Christian is not just about following commandments: it is about letting Christ take possession of our lives and transform them. (April 10)

If we act like children of God, knowing that he loves us, our lives will be made new, filled with serenity and joy. (also April 10)

Worshipping God means learning to be with him, stripping away our hidden idols and placing him at the centre of our lives.(April 14)

Jesus’ ascension into heaven does not mean his absence, but that he is alive among us in a new way, close to each one of us. (April 17)

Each one of us longs for love, for truth, for life – and Jesus is all of these things in abundance! (April 22)

At this time of crisis it is important not to become closed in on oneself, but rather to be open and attentive towards others. (April 25)

Dear young people, do not bury your talents, the gifts that God has given you! Do not be afraid to dream of great things! (April 26)

The Holy Spirit truly transforms us. With our cooperation, he also wants to transform the world we live in. (April 28)

You could write an encyclical with these!

It's a reminder that the papacy is an office, but the pope is a unique human being, with his own experiences, observations and voice.

For a wonderfully complete round up of memorable quotes from Pope Francis thus far, check out this blog post from John Thavis, former Rome Bureau Chief for Catholic News Service.

(CNS Photo/Paul Haring)

1 comment:

  1. Keep the good news coming Dear Pope Francis and like the single droplets of water that wear away hard stone that holds back refreshing water, so too may your words that carry God's message melt away the hardness of the human heart to facilitate God's graces to engulf us.