Desire Mercy

I recently subscribed to a daily Ignatian reflection from the Magis Center for Catholic Spirituality, a project of the endlessly impressive Fr. Robert J. Spitzer. Today Fr. Michael Maher — all S.J.s — connects the pope’s recent interview to the Gospel Saturday for the feast day of St. Matthew:

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

What surprises me is that some presume that call to be faithful to this message has only been recently invigorated. The idea that a pontiff would admonish to the Church to be more Christ like is no surprise–popes have been doing it for years. For example one would hardly perceive a “change in course” if you would read Pope John Paul II’s Dives in Misericordia (The Father of all Mercies) or Pope Benedict XVI’s Deus Caritas Est, (God is Love) These works, like so many other papal writings, recall the church’s fundamental mission as continuing the work of Christ. That each pope would articulate this truth in a different way simply reflects the virtue of diversity. Not all ways of speaking appeal to all people. What does appeal is God’s desire for mercy and compassion, a message proclaimed by the Church for centuries.

I think we all have a chill a little, on one hand, as so many try to fit Pope Francis into our ideological categories. Many tell me they find his interview — and interpretations of it — disturbing. Well, isn’t the Gospel message? It’s not that we get to live comfortable lives! It’s way more radical than that. It’s meant martyrdom for many. And it demands dying to self. How many of us have done that yet? Today? It’s ongoing. Are we on that radical path?

The pope, like some Holy Fathers we’ve known lately, is trying to bring the world, and each one of us, to Christ. That’s what you and I are called to do, here and offline. We will do that in different ways and styles. But it is our urgent call. Are we following? Not our favorite priest or blogger, but Christ?

  • ladybird

    Assumptions. Those thoughts we hold in our mind from which we view the world. That’s the problem with the media. They hold assumptions about everything. It’s their reality. They have cognitive dissonance when the world is not in line with their thought (agenda). No wonder everyone is confused. Critical thinking is old-fashioned and certainly not progressive.

    • Timothy Reid

      I believe critical thinking is very progressive. We do not move on in this world without being progressive and thinking critically. Though he is 76 years old, this pope is clearly progressive.

      • Sygurd Jonfski

        And why “progressive” should be automatically good? Some people worship the idol of progress while others worship the eternal, never-changing God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus.

        • Timothy Reid

          You sound suspicious of progress in any form. Progress for progress’ sake is not what we want, but a Church that doesn’t progress is a Church that is stagnant and stale. God never changes, our understanding of Him does.

          • Sygurd Jonfski

            How can I be suspicious of something that doesn’t even exist? We can talk of progress in technology and, to some extent, in science. It does not happen anywhere else. Do you think that humanity really progressed from, say, the Middle Ages? What about the untold millions of people murdered in the name of this or that ideology in the 20th century? You call that progress?

          • Timothy Reid

            So you’re a pessimist. No “hope” or “love” for you, just faith.

  • Timothy Reid

    I don’t understand why people would find this interview disturbing. I agree that we should all feel inspired and glad that the Holy Father is so willing and capable of communicating with us in so many ways. Twitter, YouTube, his homilies at Santa Marta press conferences and interviews! He’s doing what a pope needs to do. God bless Pope Francis!

  • George Albinson

    I agree with one commentator who said he is tired of hearing this Pope’s words being ‘contextualized’ by his devoted acolytes. Pope Francis seems to have lost all sense of the difference between the Church’s pastoral
    need to show compassion and understanding for individuals, and its need to take
    a decisive and prophetic stance on the public errors and evils that are
    devastating both the Church and society as a whole, and which are being
    aggressively promoted by the homosexual, abortion, and atheist lobbies; the
    advocates of radical, post-modern secularism; and last but not least by
    once-Catholic universities, most notably those run by his own order. How can the Pope lament over-emphasis on morality when it is difficult to hear any preaching from our pulpits on the great moral issues?

    However one interprets the Pope’s remarks, the problem is that they are
    so ambiguous that they need interpretation. That leads to “eisegesis”
    by the media: reading into words what one wants those words to mean, like a
    Rorshach test. The Pope’s inarticulateness invites hacks to proclaim “Pope
    Shock” and “Bombshell” and “Lowering the Boom.” And
    what is anyone who speaks any vernacular language to make of the Pope speaking of moral issues in terms of “existential peripheries?” I don’t know
    what that means in English, and I shudder to think how it is said in
    Argentinian Italian. Or why did he say previously that “triumphalists”
    do not believe in the Resurrection, without defining what he means by
    triumphalism? This is why Popes never gave interviews. Unlike a blathering
    Obama who then has Jay Carney explain that he didn’t say what he said, a Pope’s words are rather like the weights that are carefully measured in the Bureau of Weights and Measures. A media-savvy Pope must realize that our mindless culture thrives on headlines and sound-bytes, and every word he says must be spoken in light of that. Benedict XVI intimidated the media because his words were like brilliant crystal. His successor’s words, no different in essence from
    Benedict’s, are like a fog. The more comments he produces spontaneously, the
    more he risks making his faithful disciples seem like the men with shovels who
    follow the elephants at the circus.

    • Timothy Reid

      It’s tough to have a non-right winger in the chair of St. Peter isn’t it? I know that it’s tough for some Catholics who like certainty and safety and the satisfaction of always being right. Francis has just showed us that being right is not as important as being loving.

      • Sygurd Jonfski

        “…being right is not as important as being loving” – and what is that supposed to mean? If I have ever read a truly nonsensical statement, this is it.

        • Timothy Reid

          Well, there you go. You want to be right more than you want to be loving I guess. I don’t blame you I mean…. feeling right is very satisfying, but it’s not what Christ said is important.

          • Sygurd Jonfski

            Nonsense again. How can anyone live without thinking?

          • Timothy Reid

            I didn’t say anything of the kind. No one can live without thinking, but no one can enter the Kingdom without loving.

      • robert chacon

        Yes being loving is crucial ! But being loving is more than a feeling toward someone. True Charity requires understanding of the truth. We cannot profess to be following Christ unless we truly know the truth of who he is. Pope Francis is not saying one takes precedent over the other. Both must occupy the same space. But , he is saying in ALL things, including truth. there must be charity.

        • Timothy Reid

          Being loving is not a feeling. It is an action, a “doing”. I am a big supporter of truth and believe that in order to do real charity there must be truth motivating it. 1 Cor. 13 does say that love (caritas) is the most important of all things. Francis is re-aligning our priorities. Love is more important than the satisfaction of being right.

    • Allen Bourque

      I know that many are perceiving Francis as speaking “spontaneously”. A published interview which he approved of after it was written obviously reflects clear intentions on his part. From my perspective, he is fact, highly media savvy and everything he says is intentional, regardless of it’s extemporaneous character.

  • fredx2

    What is interesting is that the Pope keeps calling for mercy. Mercy towards those who disagree with you, mercy towards the liberal Catholics who don’t believe in church teaching, And so many conservatives are finding this message hard to hear! As a conservative, I do find some of this hard to listen to. The tendency is to forge ahead with the culture wars rather than stop fighting and show mercy to each other.
    But the Pope points out that this is the order: Mercy first, then persuasion. Only after Mercy is established is persuasion possible. It is infinitely harder to persuade someone who considers you an opponent than someone who considers you an understanding friend.
    He is not saying the church has to change its doctrines in the slightest. Rather, he points out it is hard to talk to some one who believes, for example, that abortion is a good thing until they realize that you are coming from a place of truth and beauty and peace. Once they realize that, they are willing to consider that the church might be right on abortion. Once they realize your goal is truth and peace, and that you respect them and love them, they relax and are willing to listen to the church’s ideas about abortion. But not until then.
    The Pope is mapping out a way to win the culture wars – by loving, by being more like Christ. But so many hear surrender in his words.

    • robert chacon

      Please repeat this every chance you get. Very well said and I believe very accurate about the Popes intentions and the true in terms of the effectiveness of this approach. Thanks. The only issue is that we have to guard against confusing love and compassion with accommodation. If you read some postings and even other writers in Patheos, the hate , vitriol and complete intolerance may never be overcome because there are so many who are simply completely irrational in their insistence on complete acceptance and even celebration of their point of view. In other words, nothing other than complete capitulation will end their battle, and even then they will still have hatred and hostility. For them, any disagreement cannot be tolerated and thus those who disagree with them, they completely demonize and I would venture to say will continue to try to destroy entirely. It is amazingly ironic that it is often one from the atheistic persuasion , whether as a homosexual marriage rights, abortion, or freedom from religion rights advocate that attempts to demonize and cast condemnation on the Church for being intolerant and casting condemnation. So, while his approach seems appropriate, it appears that there are so many filled with such rage and darkness that nothing will ever change soften their hearts let alone their opinions except perhaps for our prayer.

  • David_Naas

    That the media doesn’t get Papa Francesco, I don’t mind. They didn’t get Papa Bennie either. They don’t get anything which isn’t a sound bite uttered by one of their trained seals for the Prolefeed of the Day (Hourly News).

    What is more disturbing is that Catholics don’t seem to be getting it.

    As neither a Traddie nor Trendie, I could care less about whether the Mass is in Latin or the lead guitarist riffs off of “Guantanamera” during the Gloria. But simple, basic theology?!? Like Jesus is the reason for everything else? What is so hard about that?

    Sadly, most people, including Catholics, maybe especially those who presume themselves to be fervent, faithful Catholics, seem to favor worshiping some socio-political idol rather than the Living Christ. Which Papa Francesco is calling us back to do. But some don’t seem to want that call, they want a trumpet to do battle with “enemies”. As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy, and it is us.” Repentance (turning back to God, not just feeling bad and doing mortifications) is in order.
    Go Papa Francesco!

    • robert chacon

      We need both persuasions in the Church! We need those willing to go to battle when called for. The metaphor is inappropriate maybe because battle implies NO mercy , no compassion and a degree of hatred. Christian “battle” is love, it is evangelistic but it takes the Gospel to where the people are! But I think we also need those who are probably more like you and me. People who want to bring Jesus to people through the every day model of our lives, vocations , our careers and the good works we do outside of those realms. If these two groups within the Church cant find a way to cooperate , how do we expect the world to take the message seriously?!

  • Rev. Mark

    After having read the interview, I am left very disturbed. The Pope rambles with a disconcerting vagueness and drops buzz words and non sequiturs throughout. As an example, he states that the Church has been, at times, bound up by “little rules”, but he does not say what these are. It might be helpful to the Church if he had. He also says that, “Mary is more important than the bishops”, which is a bit like walking into a room full of people and announcing that light is more important than water, and then walking out again. His then mumbling something about confusing function and dignity only leaves one with more head scratching to do. He uses words like “mercy” and “forgiveness” as though he does not understand what they mean — when he does this, it gives the effect that he uses them when he does not know what to say next.

  • TeaPot562

    Love from my view has two components: 1) I want to be near someone that I love; and, 2) I want ONLY good things to happen to someone I love.
    So finding that a friend is immersed in a sinful habit, whether killing others, stealing from others, lying about others (bearing false witness, i.e) is not really a reason to hate him or her. It is a reason to pray for that person; That person’s hope of salvation is to realize that Jesus loves him and wants to forgive those (whatever) sins. But there is a need for the person to accept the fact that some of his/her behavior has, in fact, been sinful, and that repentance and some measure of deciding to try to avoid that sin in the future is needed.

    I can’t determine how much time before the moment of death that a person needs to repent, in order to accept God’s mercy. St. Dismas was dying on the cross when he asked Jesus (Luke 23:39-43) for forgiveness. A high school religion teacher described Dismas as “a thief to the last; he stole Heaven!”
    Prayer for family members and friends, including those who may be involved with SSA and/or abortions, is advisable.
    TeaPot562

  • Jcar

    Those of you in the media who consider yourselves educated cannot see what is plainly evident to those of us that may not be as sophisticated. When the Pope said the Church is obsessed with homosexuality, he was referring to us. We, the “media” is the church he was talking about. Our easily impressionable little and egoistic minds instead saw this as some kind of victory over the RC Church. It was as if finally, the archaic RC Church was seeing things our way. This Pope is a Jesuit. He is not afraid to strike back at hostile intellectuals with so much love, they leave his presence confused. This Pope called the media which is reflective of modern society, the obsessed church out of mercy and sympathy. The way a father looks at his son that may be going down the wrong path. Am I wrong about this? Think about it. Ask yourselves. Who is really obsessed with homosexuality and sex in general?


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