Monday, September 23, 2013

Pope Francis' Interview, Part 2: The Jesus of Our Youth

This weekend I had a couple Masses at the parish I help out.  And rather than talk the readings (and by the way, lectionary curators, thanks for the worst Gospel reading ever), I did a couple reflections on the Pope's interview.

Here's one that has really hit me since the Pope took over last spring:

I have this friend who is a shrink. And he was telling me that the real issue behind most of his patients' dilemmas is their inability or refusal to trust themselves.  Somewhere along the line they were taught or they began to believe, my two cents is no good.  And the more they applied that distrust, the more out of whack they became.

So I was thinking, a similar way of thinking applies when it comes to institutions. Like, take the Church:

When you were a kid, were you afraid of Jesus? In fact, did you know anyone that was like, that guy terrifies me?

I mean, this guy, maybe:

Maybe we need to reconsider this whole "Give my toddler to Santa" thing.

And this --whatever this is-- definitely:

Who ever thought a man-sized rabbit could be anything but terrifying??

(Definitely not these kids:)

Even God the Father -- storms, plagues, floods -- I'll give it to you.

But Jesus? Heck no. Jesus was the friend who loved us, who forgave us, who spent his time with the sick and the prisoners, the broken and the marginalized. He was the instrument of God's mercy.

But then you get towards adulthood, and all of a sudden the message has changed. "Jesus does love you, mostly...  but not so much if you date this person or behave in this way, challenge this authority..."

It's like you signed a contract as a kid, and then suddenly just when you need it, you're instructed to read the fine print, which amounts to "Jesus loves you when you do what we say."

And you're basically being asked to write off the instincts you gained early.  It's a lot like putting yourself in a closet -- you're not allowed to be messy or sinful, you're not allowed to ask tough questions, or to raise your voice when the priest does crazy stuff at Mass.

I think what's happened with Pope Francis is, he's basically wiped all that away and gone right back to the Jesus we knew, the Jesus who is all about forgiveness and mercy.  Which is incredibly liberating for us, and a relief.

And it's funny, too -- when our identity as Christians is framed in this way, you can't help but feel flawed and less than. Because when it comes to be merciful, we're just not doing it. Or I'm not anyway, not very well.

And yet, somehow Francis' words don't end up making me feeling guilty and ashamed anywhere near as much as the other approach has.  No, I feel strangely relieved. Like, yep, this is the truth, this is what it means to be Christian.  And the fact that I'm not living up -- well, I need to work on that, but it's a relief because it's the truth, too.  No use hiding.  Here I am.

I realize his approach is a pretty radical shift from the last 20 years. I can definitely appreciate if anyone feels whiplash. But there's a lot to learn here, too, about approach and substance. Hopefully we will.


Agustin Andonegui said...
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Agustin Andonegui said...

Thanks for the good read. I feel exactly the same whenever I hear Pope Francis.