It would appear that Pope Francis has broken out the Festivus Pole, and began the airing of grievances.Please know that I take no credit for this thought, my social media friend, theologian Natalia Impertori-Lee made the analogy on her Facebook page; I’m crediting her and flying with it here – gratefully.
In case you have missed what the Pope said yesterday, he used his second annual Christmas address to the Roman Curia as a grievance airing heretofore unknown by the Church. Well, except for it makes me (and many others, no doubt) of Jesus turning the tables in the Temple. It also makes me think about how most of us pray, “Come, Lord Jesus” at this time of year, but that we might not get what we want.
We are in good company. Many in first century Palestine were looking for a savior, a king come from heaven to redeem them. It is understandable in some ways; we want what we think will help us – we want what we want. It is hard to imagine the disappointment of wanting a king and ending up with a poor baby, but that’s because we understand that the baby was Jesus. Would we have rejoiced if we were there? Maybe not so much.
Pope Francis is neither a baby nor is he Jesus; he is the head of the Roman Catholic Church. Like Jesus, he is not simply here to make us feel better, he is here to carry out what we seek in church, that being transformation. To riff off of St. Augustine, it is typically a case of “Jesus, please change me, just not yet.”
Pope Francis excoriated the Curia for what he termed “15 diseases.” If you want to know, yes, at first I offered an inner “you GO, Pope Francis!” My smug response quickly dissolved when I started to read the list of diseases. You see, following Jesus, the pope is offering something to all of us. If we don’t see ourselves in some of those diseases, then perhaps we are missing the point.
Anyway, Pope Francis starting at what may be one of the most insular places in the world – the hierarchy. It’s good for us peasants, to hear of this. However, it would seem to me that we are called to the same examination of conscience. For further reflection on this, it might be worth reading about, or refreshing your knowledge of Ignatian spirituality, in which Ignatius of Loyola taught the importance of such examination. (Here is a good starting point, but there are numerous resources on the topic.)
For those who may be horrified by Pope Francis and what might seem his lack of clarity, which leads to confusion – I have few answers other than the same inward gaze at who we are. I’d simply say this to the confusion-fear crowd… Jesus spoke in parables, not in canonical language. That’s not to say that canonical language and clarity don’t matter, but we are invited into a mystery of love by Jesus.
Using one last Festivus reference, let’s dive into what the birth of Christ heralds, using Pope Francis words as a starting point. Christmas now becomes an examination of conscience not just for the Curia, but “for the rest of us.”