The Pope has begun to address Americans as the head of the Catholic Church. His message is one of joy and one of challenge. The Holy Father causes us to think and consider our position as men and women on earth in our current temporal reality – striving for our place in heaven in the eternal reality. His main public comments yesterday were to President Obama, The Bishops and then to all Americans. Like all liberty-based commentators, it is easy and common to dissect out the comments that have broad and deep political implications. It is even easier to analyze and critique them when the policy proposals of Pope Francis are based in faulty assumptions, will have many negative unintended negative consequences or may not even comport with the Catechism of the Church itself. That is appropriate and will be done soon. However amid the tumult of political critique, men and women often miss the grand and truly joyful messages of Pope Francis – an error to be corrected today.
Pope to President: Be true to Nation’s Founding Principles
Pope Francis began his public comments on the South lawn of the White House and was gracious and grateful to our great nation stating “…I hope to listen to, and share, many of the hopes and dreams of the American people.” He indicated he wanted to “offer words of encouragement to those called to guide the nation’s political future in fidelity to its founding principles”.
The Pope pointed out that our country was founded on freedom, especially religious liberty. He reminded us that through that liberty, we can build a society that is “truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination”
He also reminded the President that he was here to “celebrate and support the institutions of marriage and the family at this, a critical moment in the history of our civilization.” The Pope reminds us all that the basic cell of society is the family based on one man, one woman in sacramental marriage and the children that are born to them and for which they provide. His comments reminds us all of the Catholic Chruch’s call for “subsidiarity” which states:
“1883 Socialization also presents dangers. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which “a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co- ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
Certainly the Pope is calling us to remember that excessive intervention by state can hurt the family and freedom, including religious liberty.
Pope to Bishops: My Visit is Primarily focused on Life and the Family
Pope Francis also spoke to the Bishops. He reminded them that he would be there to support a mission that helps people that seek to show the love of Christ and to help the vulnerable.
“Whenever a hand reaches out to do good or to show the love of Christ, to dry a tear or bring comfort to the lonely, to show the way to one who is lost or to console a broken heart, to help the fallen or to teach those thirsting for truth, to forgive or to offer a new start in God… know that the Pope is at your side, the Pope supports you.”
The Pope called on the Bishops to continue their work to support life and the family. Stating is was “the primary reason for my present visit.” He pointed out that he is merely carrying on the tradition of three prior Popes who have visited our country (Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI). He stated that “Their words remain timely and have helped to inspire the long-term goals which you have set for the Church in this country.”
More importantly he called on Bishops to remain Shepards in the church and reminded them that when tending their flock Satan was trying to interfere “The evil one roars like a lion, anxious to devour it” (the flock). He reminded them to be “pastors close to people, pastors who are neighbors and servants.”He called on Bishops “first and foremost to solidify unity, a unity whose content is defined by the Word of God and the one Bread of Heaven.” He stated they should be encouraged to confront the challenging issues of our time.“
“The innocent victim of abortion, children who die of hunger or from bombings, immigrants who drown in the search for a better tomorrow, the elderly or the sick who are considered a burden, the victims of terrorism, wars, violence and drug trafficking, the environment devastated by man’s predatory relationship with nature – at stake in all of this is the gift of God, of which we are noble stewards but not masters. It is wrong, then, to look the other way or to remain silent. No less important is the Gospel of the Family, which in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia I will emphatically proclaim together with you and the entire Church.”
The Pope’s Homily: “Go Forth Proclaim the Good News”
The Pope’s Homily has the best message. A large portion of it was based on the last paragraph of the Gospel of Matthew (28:16-20). Jesus had been crucified and then resurrected! He presented himself to his disciples in Galilee. He said:
“The Commissioning of the Disciples.* 16f The eleven* disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. 17* When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. 18* g Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19h Go, therefore,* and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, 20i teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.* And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Jesus was commissioning his disciples to spread the good news of his saving power of redemption for sin to all. He wanted all nations to hear it. All people to hear that if they would repent from their sins, Jesus will save them so they may enter Heaven eternally after their death. Jesus told “them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
Pope Francis challenged all to pick up the mantle of the discples:
“A Christian finds joy in mission: Go out to people of every nation!
A Christian experiences joy in following a command: Go forth and proclaim the good news!
A Christian finds ever new joy in answering a call: Go forth and anoint!”
He reminded all that the message belongs to all and Christians should not fear to spread it to all. To the faithful, to the sinner, to the rich and the poor.
“Jesus did not provide a short list of who is, or is not, worthy of receiving his message and his presence. Instead, he always embraced life as he saw it. In faces of pain, hunger, sickness and sin. In faces of wounds, of thirst, of weariness, doubt and pity. Far from expecting a pretty life, smartly-dressed and neatly groomed, he embraced life as he found it. It made no difference whether it was dirty, unkempt, broken. Jesus said: Go out and tell the good news to everyone. Go out and in my name embrace life as it is, and not as you think it should be. Go out to the highways and byways, go out to tell the good news fearlessly, without prejudice, without superiority, without condescension, to all those who have lost the joy of living. Go out to proclaim the merciful embrace of the Father. Go out to those who are burdened by pain and failure, who feel that their lives are empty, and proclaim the folly of a loving Father who wants to anoint them with the oil of hope, the oil of salvation. Go out to proclaim the good news that error, deceitful illusions and falsehoods do not have the last word in a person’s life. Go out with the ointment which soothes wounds and heals hearts.”
Pope Francis was joyful in his pronouncements and we should be joyful in our love of Christ and in our mission to spread the good news as well!