… and the Gospel must first be preached to all nations. Jesus Christ
Pope Francis announced the appointment of 15 new cardinals today.
The Holy Father chose men from all around the globe, representing such places of Xai-Xai, which is the capital of Gaza Province in Mozambique. He appointed new cardinals for Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam and Ethiopia.
He also appointed a couple of new cardinals to Italy and one to Portugal. None of the new cardinals were from the United States.
What does this mean? Americans, who are prone to interpret every move by just about anybody in terms of American politics, are quick to denounce/applaud the list of new cardinals based on whether they see the Holy Father’s appointments as “progressive” or not.
However, there is a more accurate way to look at the actions of the Vicar of Christ, and that is through the lens of Holy Scripture. What Pope Francis did is not political in the one-off news cycle way that most Americans see everything he does. It is prophecy, being fulfilled right in front of us.
Turn to Chapter 13 of the book of Mark and let your eye drift down to verse 10. Chapter 13 of Mark concerns what big-word talkers call eschatology. Eschatology, which is a word so unmelodious and awkward that I detest saying it, is the study of what most people call “the end times.”
Right in the middle of Jesus’ prophecy of the end times we find a verse that sticks up in the flow of warnings of dislocations, tragedies and persecution like a rock jutting through white water. It’s almost as if Jesus took a breath and said it, then launched back into the litany of the persecutions to come, But first, the Gospel must first be preached to all nations, he said.
This flat statement, this caveat to the Second Coming, will be reflected later, when He gives what Protestants call The Great Commission just before He ascends into heaven.
… go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you until the end of the world. Jesus Christ
It is the leaven in the bread, the mustard seed. This preaching of the Gospel to all nations is the Kingdom coming that precedes His return. It is the first cause, the primogeniture of what must happen. First, the Gospel must be preached to all nations.
If you give up the politics-and-power centric view of all things for just a moment and remember that Pope Francis is in fact and in truth the Vicar of Christ, then these appointments make all kinds of prophetic sense. They are not a political statement about the United States. They are simply an acknowledgement of the fact that the Gospel is indeed being preached to all nations.
These appointments are prophetic, not in the sense that they make prophecy, but in that they are footsteps in the long march of prophetic history from the garden to the day when God will return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
I’m not someone who gives a lot of thought to the end times. I certainly do not devote myself to Eschatology, which is the formal study of such. My end of time is coming straight at me as I spend the days of my life, one at a time. I will die not too far in the future, and when I do, I will stand before God. I do not fear that day because, to quote St Paul, I know whom I have believed, and I trust that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him against that day.
In other words, when I stand before God, my only defense of my misspent life will be that Jesus died for my sins. Like the lintels of the doorways in Egypt, I am marked by the blood of the Lamb. For that reason, and for that reason alone, death will pass me by.
I don’t obsess over the end times. But I have read the Bible and I am aware of the world around me. I know that the prophetic clock is ticking. I don’t expect that I will see Him descend with a shout in this life. But I would have to be totally ignorant of both Scripture and the events of the last 100 years to be unaware that these prophecies are falling, click, click, click, like a row of slow-motion dominoes.
There is no cause for apprehension or obsession in this. It just is. God will do these things in His time and His way. Our part is simply to do what we are told, to be faithful with what He has given us. Speaking for myself, that’s more than enough.
When we read the political/zeitgeist/temporal interpretations of things like the appointment of these new Cardinals, it’s wise to remember that Pope Francis is not a member of the United States Senate. He is not the head of a brokerage firm, and he is not planning to throw his zucchetto in the ring and run for president, prime minister or any other political what not.
He is, simply, the Pope, which is to say that He is the Vicar of Christ. He’s Jesus’ priest. The only way to understand Pope Francis’ actions is to stop our political confabulating and take a look at The Book. If we do, we will see that Jesus — Who is the real boss of the Church — said quite plainly that the Gospel must be preached to all nations.
That’s what’s happening. And our universal Church — along with our faithful Protestant and Orthodox brothers and sisters — is a conduit of that ever-widening, all-encompassing circle of grace.
From Vatican Radio:
(Vatican Radio) At the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis announced the names of fifteen Archbishops and Bishops whom he will raise to the dignity of the Cardinalate on February 14, 2015. In addition, the Holy Father announced that five retired Archbishops and Bishops “distinguished for their pastoral charity in the service of the Holy See and of the Church” would also be made Cardinals.
Note: I misquote Bible verses from memory. Since I have read many different translations of Scripture, and since I read the Bible every day, I don’t misquote any one translation.