I love our Holy Father, and I love what he has to say. But sometimes I have a hard time sifting through the media’s portrayal of his actions in order to find out what is really going on. It seems like every time he is in the news, journalists of all types claim that he is somehow trying to drastically change divinely inspired church doctrine. I’ve found that the best place to go is directly to the source. Recently, he gave a homily at the opening Mass of the Family Synod and eloquently put into words his approach to living the Christian life. I highly recommend that you read the whole homily, it’s not too long, but I’ll say just a few words about it here.
We as humans tend to have a hard time with complexity. We want things to be black and white, either-or. Our dear Pope Francis refuses to be neatly categorized, and I love that about him. For as long as I’ve been a practicing Catholic, I have struggled with the balance between teaching the truth and loving my neighbor. Our society wants to tell me it’s impossible for me to love someone while at the same time disagreeing with their lifestyle. Holding steadfastly to principles is incompatible with being a caring person. But Pope Francis says it’s not so. And for some reason, even though he is reiterating what others have said before him, it seems that people are listening this time.
“In this extremely difficult social and marital context, the Church is called to carry out her mission in fidelity, truth and love. To carry out her mission in fidelity to her Master as a voice crying out in the desert… To carry out her mission in truth, which is not changed by passing fads or popular opinions. The truth which protects individuals and humanity as a whole from the temptation of self-centredness and from turning fruitful love into sterile selfishness, faithful union into temporary bonds… To carry out her mission in charity, not pointing a finger in judgment of others, but – faithful to her nature as a mother – conscious of her duty to seek out and care for hurting couples with the balm of acceptance and mercy; to be a “field hospital” with doors wide open to whoever knocks in search of help and support; to reach out to others with true love, to walk with our fellow men and women who suffer, to include them and guide them to the wellspring of salvation.”
We are not called to teach the truth simply because it is right, but because it protects humans from self-centeredness and directs their gaze toward the other… and eventually the Other. But we can’t just stand on our soapbox and scream at people to see it our way, even when our hearts are aching with the inconsistencies and atrocities we see around us. We have to follow the example of Pope Francis, and of Jesus Himself, and walk with those who suffer, even if they do not know they are suffering! My personal goal for the upcoming Year of Mercy is to listen to the advice of Pope Francis and strive to courageously, faithfully live out the Gospel in truth and charity.