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?