Saturday, February 15, 2014

Pope Francis on "adagio-complainers," and lambs who act like wolves

We all know that dissenting Catholics, especially those in prominent positions with big platforms like universities, especially clerics, are the typical image we have of a wolf.  But, Pope Francis draws our attention to another kind of wolf - the lamb who acts like a wolf.

Here are the main points from the homily of Pope Francis yesterday. There are three points:

Commenting on the day’s first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, Pope Francis reflected on the nature of Christian identity, noting that a Christian is first of all someone who is “sent”: the Lord sends his disciples out into the world to proclaim the Gospel, so a Christian is a disciple “who walks, who always moves forward”. A Christian who stands still “is sick”, the Pope said, because the first marker of Christian identity is the capacity “to walk even where there are difficulties, to go beyond those difficulties”.

Okay, so he is hitting one of his main points, that the laity must start to pull their weight on the evangelization front.

He continues:

A second feature of Christian identity, the Pope continued, is that a Christian “is a lamb, and must retain this identity”: the Lord sends us out “as lambs among wolves”. Some would suggest using strength against those wolves, the Pope continued, but we must remember David when he fought the Philistine: “they wanted to dress him up in all of Saul’s armour and he couldn’t move, he wasn’t himself, he wasn’t humble”, so in the end he took his catapult and he won the battle. Sometimes temptation leads us to think: “This is difficult, these wolves are smart and I’ll be smarter than them”. But as long as you’re a lamb, the Lord will defend you, while if you’re a wolf, He won’t defend you, He will leave you alone. 

This reminds me of a point I have raised often, that we cannot defend Jesus Christ with the sword.  Jesus rebuked Peter for that (John 18:1-11).  As I pointed out in a post some months ago, we should see the sword as a tool that cuts out sin and imperfections from ours own lives, not something by which we forcefully bring others into compliance.  God doesn't force us to go against our free will so we should not use this method with others.

We can lose sight of the fact that there is nothing happening around us that God doesn't already know about. Just as he could have sent a legion of angels to free Jesus from the Cross, the same could be done for us.  Yet, it is with meekness and gentleness that we must proceed, mindful that the best evangelization efforts are those where virtue leads the way, and we remain blameless in every regard.  Of course, this means learning about virtue and the way of perfection. Knowledge of the faith is not enough and if we neglect that other side, we can evangelize with a nasty streak that can push others away, rather than draw them.

Consider how we see people discussing the need to increase reverence for the Eucharist. Some will promote distribution of Holy Communion on the tongue and kneeling with a bitter sarcasm that sometimes even mocks others who receive in the hand while standing - a valid and popular method of reception.  Because it is popular and valid does not mean we ought not talk about changes. I myself am an advocate of returning to Communion being distributed on the tongue while kneeling.  However, I am also an advocate of the method used by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, ORC.  He proposes and invites people by appealing to their intellect and hearts.  This shepherd talks to lambs like a lamb and the end result is that they do not scatter when he speaks.  It is a mode of delivery that is pure and because it is pure, it allows the Holy Spirit to do the real work.  I've known people who cannot bring themselves to agree with Bishop Schneider, yet they say they will think about what he says.  Bishop Schneider's approach is one that respects the free will of others. He is mindful that he cannot force others to accept what he is teaching.  People who use caustic methods to advance a cause do harm to the very thing they are promoting.

The Holy Father talks about the last kind of identity:

A third feature of Christian identity, Pope Francis went on, is the “Christian style”, which is joy. Christians, he said, “are people who exult because they know the Lord and they bring the Lord”. It is not possible, the Pope said, to walk as Christians without joy, to walk as lambs without joy. Even in the face of challenges, in the face of difficulties, in the face of our own mistakes and sins, “there is the joy of Jesus, which always forgives and helps”. Those Christians whose “tempo” of life is “adagio-complaining” are not helping the Lord or the Church, the Pope said: that is not the style of the disciple.

Here, I believe he is talking about people who are slow (adagio) to get involved because they allow themselves to be overwhelmed with difficulties, or with their own sinfulness.  They would rather sit around and complain.  This is not only harmful to themselves, but it is harmful to evangelization efforts as this is the face others see.

He finishes with this admonition:

On the feast of the two Christian disciples, Cyrill and Methodius, we must reflect on the nature of Christian identity, Pope Francis concluded: a Christian is a man or a woman who never stands still, who always walks, who walks as a lamb, and walks with joy. Through the intercession of these Saints, Patrons of Europe, may the Lord grant us the grace to live as Christians who walk as lambs, with joy.


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