by Deacon Tony
On Monday, July 29, Pope Francis made history. He had just ended a successful World Youth Conference, held in Brazil, where he energized the youth to evangelize the world with Jesus as the center of their lives. Most young people come home from those experiences “on cloud nine,” as they say. It is unfortunate that so many of us have not experienced a “Jesus High” that comes after one of these experiences like World Youth Day for our children or Cursillo for adults. It is truly an experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit.
But it was somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean that Pope Francis made the most news. Even though he doesn’t like doing news conferences, he decided to talk to the press on his return trip. There were no previously prepared questions given to him. There were no subjects off limits. It was extemporaneous and it proved to be very fruitful and encouraging. The two statements that stood out the most were on homosexuality and the role of women in the Church. On homosexuality, the Pope stated: “When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby (Pope was referring to the so-called gay lobby in the curia). If people accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency (to homosexuality) is not the problem…they’re our brothers.” In my view, this was a very powerful message to give to all gay Catholics. The Pope was not indicating that the Church’s official position on homosexuality will change. No. He was setting the stage for all of us to think about how we should act towards another brother and sister believer. He was setting the stage for dialoguing in a more compassionate and open way, without the use of language that demeans a person who has a sexual orientation that is different from the norm. It is a mystery as to how the Church will reconcile the teachings of a Thomistic (St. Thomas Aquinas) approach towards sexuality which the Church has embraced and the obvious fact that homosexual people are all children for and created by God. This reconciliation may not happen in our lifetime but the Pope is fostering dialogue and understanding. “Who am I to judge,” he says. For those of us who look to the Pope for spiritual direction, this may be a problem or it may be welcomed news. He wishes us to examine our conscience and pray on the subject. Maybe the Holy Spirit will enlighten us on how we speak of and think of our homosexual brothers and sisters.
This brings me to my belief that our Pope is handling some teachings and tenants of the Church that are not changed too easily, by initiating or giving us permission, as it were, to talk about it in a different light. From this dialogue may evolve a different approach to “the issue.” This is also true of his statement concerning the role of women in the Church. He opened the door, not to the possibility of women priests in the near future, but he recognizes that the role of women should be much “deeper” in the life of the Church. If nothing else, the Pope has initiated a “change of tone” in our Church on certain issues. This approach seems to be in keeping with his overall approach of leading “from the bottom up” rather than “from the top down”. His actions are giving us a spiritual direction in which to live our own lives. His lack of materialism encourages us to follow him down that path. If you have a choice between a golden throne and one that is wooden, choose the wooden. If you want a gold-embroidered red stole or cape, choose a simple (white in his case) material instead. If you have to choose between expensive red shoes and plain black shoes, choose the black shoes. If you have to choose between a simple cross, rather than a cross filled with rubies and diamonds, choose the simple cross as he has done in all of these examples. Our Pope has taken the Papacy into the streets. Let us pray for him that he has the strength and the wisdom on that journey to continue to guide us in the way of Jesus. God bless and have a great week..
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