Pope Francis awaits. He is trusting us to pray, think and act with all our heart. Do you throw a few words in God’s direction and call them prayer? That is how the only parish priest saint in the history of the Church accused his people of thoughtless prayer. Are we the same? We know what Pope Francis inherited, failures by Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI and both admitted it. It is in Benedict’s last books. Francis knows the people are his hope because the old system has failed.
The people of God must hear the message of Jesus “Love one another as I have loved you” in contrast to the “Obey what we say” that encourages people to remain safely quiet. “We don’t come to church to think but to pray,” say some believers, having chosen a relationship with God that leaves them comfortable but leaves all that needs to be done to be done by others.
The moral approach to teaching the faith is the one many learnt at school: this is right, that is wrong. Many priests chose, and still do, to preach like that. In contrast, the pastoral approach starts with the persons who are hurt or feel excluded and asks how they want to be helped.
Pope Francis wants us to welcome them all, reassured of God’s love and our lovingly welcoming them. Two different approaches, aren’t they: right or wrong, helping in any circumstances. With Pope Francis see how those two approaches blend rather than exclude one another . . . Jesus told the people of his day that the scribes and pharisees made the Law too heavy a burden whilst he wanted to make their burden light.
“I am gentle and humble of heart. Learn from me, my burden is light and you will find rest for your souls.” We should be humble of heart. We listen to Jesus rather than to lawyers but discover that Jesus fulfils the Law and brings it to perfection. In Jesus the moral and pastoral are made perfect. The more we become like him the more clearly we see that truth.
Pope Francis is inviting us to create this new balance but until he invites the women as equals half the Church feels excluded. Pope Francis knows that. How will you help him? “But whatever I think or do, others are just as I am – can’t I leave it to them?” They are leaving it to you. God longs to bless us. We must learn how to accept that blessing.
God is blessing us always,
(19th February 2023)