The papal explosion – a time when the Holy Father speaks, and then some hearts explode with joy, while some heads explode in horror. I know, I know – not exactly the image you would imagine for a papal post. *sigh* What can I tell you? This is explosive material… which to me makes it more Jesus-y than ever, if you ask me. I know, I may appear have all that cool, detached, post-modern “whatever-ism” thing going on here, but I can assure you that I feel neither cool nor detached about any of this. Welcome to “The Joy of the Gospel” or “Evangellii Gaudium,” the new papal document.
Here are three things that struck me; none of which is a big breakdown of a document that requires more time than today affords me.
On pastoral ministry and change:
“Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: ‘We have always done it this way.’ I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities.”
One of the snarky things that I have to resist saying to “we’ve always done it that way,” is this… Do you imagine that Jesus was resurrected, walked to a Gothic cathedral, donned some vestments, had some cassock-and-surpliced server spark up some incense, and then began saying mass as we understand it, in Latin chant, with his back to the congregation?
I find the Pope’s words on change refreshing. If we are not invited to boldness and transformation, then what are we doing? To this, I simply say that the crucifixion and the resurrection are the images to pray with. How are we transformed in Christ?
I am reminded of the wisdom of Jaroslav Pelikan, who said: “Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. Tradition lives in conversation with the past, while remembering where we are and when we are and that it is we who have to decide. Traditionalism supposes that nothing should ever be done for the first time, so all that is needed to solve any problem is to arrive at the supposedly unanimous testimony of this homogenized tradition.”
The topic of women
“Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity, present the Church with profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded. The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general. It must be remembered that when we speak of sacramental power ‘we are in the realm of function, not that of dignity or holiness.’”
Well, yes, Pope Francis has restated what frustrates many. Yet, I invite us to consider otherwise. Does anyone actually expect that he suddenly say that women can be ordained?
Maybe I’m rationalizing, but I’d like to think that I am hardcore realist about what is not going to change, most likely in my lifetime. He may deny ordination, but do you hear what he is saying about sacramental power? Function versus dignity and holiness? If you don’t hear real change in that, please I ask you to reconsider. And don’t forget that God is full of surprises, and that the Holy Spirit moves where She will, when She wishes.
Poverty and politics
“I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor! It is vital that government leaders and financial leaders take heed and broaden their horizons, working to ensure that all citizens have dignified work, education and healthcare.”
I think that these words, and some of the other phrases about wealth and justice will cause most of the explosions – of both head and heart. The whirring that I hear may be the spin machines, trying to turn some of this to current ideology, but other words in the document were very clear on the notion of trickle down and trusting the system.
Imagine begging, not asking, but begging the Lord to grant us more politicians who are focused on how to transform the lives of the poor? To broaden their horizons?
And please understand that while the focus may be different, these words have been said by popes for a long time, even when you might not have heard him clearly. So let’s not go thinking that Pope Francis is speaking a different language, but let’s consider that he speaks in a language more clearly heard.
That may be the biggest head/heart exploder of all – nothing that Pope Francis says is really new. Some of what he has said has been unsaid. Some of what he has said has been said differently. Some of what he has said was said very clearly in the past.
If we are hear in a new way today and our heads explode in horror – let us refocus on the Jesus call to a different way of living.
If we hear in a new way today and our hearts are exploding in joy – let us refocus on Jesus call to a different way of living. Whatever we hear, we should pray to hear with ears of justice and hope, no matter how challenging – or encouraging – the message may be.
We are all called to transformation and change, not called to be on one side or the other. And that, that is precisely the spirit of Evangelii Gaudium – the joy of the Gospel!