Pope Francis is Person of the Year and It Doesn’t Mean a Thing

Pope Francis is Person of the Year and It Doesn’t Mean a Thing December 12, 2013

Time Magazine named Pope Francis their ‘Person of the Year’ for 2013.

This honor, which is usually a signal event in the lives of most of its recipients, was probably more of a bemusement to the Holy Father.

He walks in the shoes of the fisherman.

I have always loved the power of that first call to Peter. It is an incredible story. Here it is, in all its stark simplicity.

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. Come, follow me, Jesus said, and I will send you out to fish for people. At once they left their nets and followed him.

Think about this story for a moment. Simon and his brother Andrew are going about their daily work as fishermen. They are casting their nets into the lake. Then this stranger comes up and says, Follow me … and I will send you out to fish for people. 

What would you do?

I’ve dealt with a lot of crazy people in my time in public office. Many of them have pulled me aside to share their delusions. I’ve always handled it as gently as I could. But I never considered dropping everything and following them off to Mars or wherever they thought they were going.

You can tell when someone is delusional. It’s not difficult at all.

But this carpenter’s son was different, and those who, as He said, had the eyes to see, picked up on it immediately. Simon and his brother dropped their nets, left their livelihood, and followed Him.

Why? What did they have the eyes to see?

I think it was more of an intuition and an instinctive response to the presence of God than knowledge and understanding. The Gospels make it clear that all the Apostles, including Peter, (who was called Simon until Jesus changed his name) slowly and often reluctantly came to an understanding of Who Jesus was and what His call meant. They were still quarreling among themselves as to their position in what they thought was going to be an earthly kingdom a few days before the crucifixion.

But the same Jesus Who others humiliated and murdered without fear for themselves or their immortal souls, was, for those who had the eyes to see, a transcendent figure from the first.

The seeds of His crucifixion were sown early in His ministry among those who were offended by His teaching. This was not a simple miracle man. He challenged the jots and tittles of the weighty interpretations of the law that the priests had layered on the people. He laid bare the priests’ pretensions while opening His arms to the displaced and despised.

They accused Him repeatedly — and accurately — of healing on the Sabbath. They “grieved and angered” Jesus with “their hardness of heart.”

Is it better to save a life or end it? he asked them, and they responded by plotting to kill him.

He could have quibbled and shuffled his feet and obfuscated His way out of the danger. He could have watered down the Gospel so that it fit the teachings of these fallen priests.

But He didn’t. Instead, He went right in their faces with his challenge to their mis-use of the law to control and weigh people down. The son of man is lord of the Sabbath He told them. The Sabbath was made for people. People were not made for the Sabbath, He said.

And they killed Him for it.

The crowds loved Him. They followed Him everywhere, even going so far as to knock a hole in the roof of Peter’s house to lower a crippled man for Him to heal. Less than a week before they yelled “Crucify Him!” the crowds shouted Hosanna! and laid palm branches in the road in front of Him.

Pope Francis is the Vicar of Christ. When he — or anyone — speaks out for the Gospels, he will be dealt with in a manner similar to what Jesus Himself experienced from human hands.

Is the servant greater than the master? Jesus asked his disciples. If they persecute me, they will persecute you. 

Today, as 2,000 years ago, high profile followers of Christ are subjected to the same push-pull of adulation that is placed on them instead of Him as well as the attacks and smears that are also placed on them instead of Him. In truth, both the love and the hate are focused on Jesus.

These high-profile followers of Christ are just the temporal targets through which people express their feelings about Jesus and their understanding of the Gospels. Pope Francis, as the Vicar of Christ, get this treatment, raised to powers of ten.

On the one hand, he is named Person of the Year. On the other hand, he is attacked as a heretic and compared — with absolutely no basis in fact — with the most corrupt popes of history.

Why? Because he says that Jesus came to seek the lost, that we must not walk past Lazarus, that the prostitutes and drug dealers and homosexuals will enter the Kingdom of Heaven before the pharisees of our time.

He is accused of being a sell-out because known sinners are attracted to him. He is called outrageous names because he says blessed are the poor.

This honor of being named Person of the Year will almost certainly further inflame those who are so bitterly angry with him. After all, the honor — in all its temporal nothingness — comes from public sinners.

Who is Pope Francis to tell sinners that Jesus loves them? Who does he think he is, insisting that Christ the Lord meant what He said?

Maybe, he thinks he’s the Pope. Perhaps the Holy Spirit had a thing or two to do with his election. It’s possible that he was put in this position because what he’s telling us is what we need to hear.

I wrote a post declaring my loyalty to this good man.

I ended up deleting a number of disturbing comments on this post. The comments came from people who wanted to rage at  the Holy Father — and at me, for standing with him.

They came from Catholics whose Catholicism has devolved down to a Gospel according to them as explicated by some false internet pope they are slavishly following. They repeatedly cited this or that cult-leader of a fallen priest or political guru to explain why the Pope is a heretic, a fool, or worse.

They chided me for following the Pope instead of their fallen priest or political guru. They explained to me why there is no responsibility for Catholics to follow the teachings of the Holy Father when it conflicts with the teachings of these internet tin gods.

Each of these rageful, bitter people appeared to be convinced — absolutely, foaming at the mouth I’d like to kill you for disagreeing with me convinced — that the teachings of their fallen priest/political guru trumped that of the Pope. They were, in a word, demented. They were, in a phrase, in the grip of a virulent form of self-deluding, self-righteous evil.

This is all First Century stuff. It is the same old story, re-told with living actors who don’t seem to know they are playing a part. I know that the chock-full-o-nuts attacks on the Holy Father for being named Man of the Year will arrive soon. I’ve read enough attacks claiming that the Pope is a heretic because public sinners are attracted to what he’s saying to know they’re coming.

For those of you who are interested, here’s my take on the Person of the Year deal: It doesn’t mean a thing.

Those same people who are so in love with Pope Francis today can turn like they were on ice and begin attacking him tomorrow.

What does matter — and is of eternal consequence — is whether or not those who hear his message will be convicted by it to turn to Jesus. The Pope is in the business of saving souls, not gathering honors.

He’s the Pope. He stands in the shoes of the fisherman. Which makes him a fisher of people.



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26 responses to “Pope Francis is Person of the Year and It Doesn’t Mean a Thing”

  1. Saying that economics doesn’t involve questions of faith and morals is, in and of itself, a moral statement about economics. It is saying “I don’t want Jesus in charge of money.” But Jesus made more moral statements about money than about prostitution and homosexuality. Relegating economics to “prudential judgment” is nothing more than greed justifying itself.

  2. Quick, who was the Person of tne Year four years ago?

    [Answer: Ben Bernanke, but I only know because I looked it up. As we can see, the designation has done a lot for his popularity. ]

    I’m glad Miley Cyrus wasn’t chosen, but that’s about as much as this means to me. In four years, few people will remember who Time’s Person of the Year for 2013 was.

    • You may be right that in four years few people will remember who was TIMEPOY. But I’m very confident that in four years the influence of Pope Francis on the Catholic Church and the world at large will have only increased. In a few short months Pope Francis has changed the conversation–and in doing so he is pointing the way to change the world for the better. And how do we change the world? Do what Peter did when Jesus said, “Come follow me.”

      Peter answered that call nearly two thousand years ago. And we still remember. An excerpt from Fr. Robert Barron’s CATHOLICISM makes this point beautifully. Fr. Barron writes, “In April of 2005 the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI came onto the front loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica to bless the crowds. Gathered around him on the adjoining balconies there appeared all of the cardinals who had just chosen him. The news cameras caught the remarkably pensive expression on the face of Cardinal Francis George of Chicago. When the cardinal returned home, reporters asked him what he was thinking about at that moment. Here is what he said. “I was gazing over toward the Circus Maximus, toward the Palatine Hill where the Roman Emperors once resided and reigned and looked down upon the persecution of Christians, and I thought, ‘Where are their successors? Where is the successor of Caesar Augustus? Where is the successor of Marcus Aurelius? And finally who cares? But if you want to see the successor of Peter, he is right next to me, smiling and waving at the crowds.’ ” ”

      We are blessed to be alive to experience the witness of Pope Francis.

  3. Here’s where i disagree. Yes, it’s not a really big thing, and it does come with some issues. But just as the priest pedophile scandle hurt the perception of the church, we needed someone readjust that perception. I think his papacy has done it and I’m hoping that it leads to people returning to Catholicism, or at least stopping the exodus. I think it’s a net plus.

    • Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is at the helm using His faithful servant, Pope Francis, to readjust and promote our faith and the Church throughout the world. Many will be chosen…few will respond.

  4. About the switch from “hosanna” to “crucify”, actually it is not quite as clear-cut as you think. It almost certainly was not the same crowd. Archaeologists have dug up the Lithostraton, the open space before the Procurator’s residence, where the howling mob gathered to confront Pilate; it is a small area, easily filled by a rent-a-mob of a few hundred rowdies. What is more,,we know that this took place during the preparation for Passover, when every good Jew was at home sacrificing the lamb and ritually preparing for the great Sabbath dinner. Jesus had to be dead before Passover:that was the plan of the priests from the beginning, and that is why they hustled and harassed Pilate unmercifully. It seems certain that the crowd that bayed for Jesus’ blood was a few hundred rabble, so rootless and placeless as to have no Passover to prepare, sent there for the purpose.

  5. The irony is that these uber-orthodox Catholics, more Catholic than the Pope himself, in accusing Francis of heresy are making the very same case as Martin Luther, that the Christ’s guarantee to Peter is false and that the Pope isn’t a “real” Christian.

  6. Rebecca this good man you are so loyal to has been by his approval causing untold grief for the FFI who by the way are not Reactionaries but simply want to practice their Faith their way. Do you know that besides not being allowed any ordination they also are not allowed to criticize the Pope. Monsignor Volpi has said this, If Francis is so much for Mercy and inclusion than why does he continue to allow the Canon law rights of these people to be violated. My comments will be removed but IMHO he does not deserve to be Man of the Year if he talks the talk but won’t walk the walk.

  7. Not to be picayune but Andrew and Peter knew the Christ before they were called. Andrew and Philip followed Our Lord after John the Baptist, whose disciples they were, identified Him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Andrew went then to his brother Simon and proclaimed: We have found the Messiah. . . . Come and see. It was at this first meeting that Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter.

  8. Rebecca,
    Thank you for this outstanding post. And I would encourage anyone that has not already read your post “I stand with the Pope” to do so. These two posts together represent for me the rational and “catholic” (meaning “universal”) center of what is good in this world that Pope Francis is pointing us toward. This is the same center that Jesus pointed to when he said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

    You wrote, “He’s the Pope… Which makes him a fisher of people.” Well, I’m not the Pope, but I am a baptized Catholic. And Jesus has called me (and you, and all people) as he called Peter to, “Come follow me.” That means I am called to be a fisher of people too. By his example, Pope Francis is teaching us all how to fish.

    If I may suggest a relevant link, Father Robert Barron (developer and host of the 10 part CATHOLICISM series) has an excellent column on Pope Francis and the Joy of the Gospel that is entirely consistent with the points you made in this post and the the other one mentioned above. I highly recommend Fr. Barron’s piece to your followers as a outstanding complement to what you have written. It may be found here. http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/column.php?n=2754#.UqC3y1sby8G.twitter

    May God give you peace. (St. Francis greeting and prayer to those he met.)
    Twitter: @RayGlennon

    • Hi Theodore. Just in case you didn’t know, Andrew, Peter, James and John had already met Jesus (John 1,35:42), but they were not following him full time as of yet. Good question though.

  9. There is nothing wrong with not necessarily liking the style of this Pope …. it’s personal taste imo – without denigrating or insulting him. And if his way of doing things brings people back, wonderful! What has hurt me and I’m sure many Catholics, is that so many, many people, in praising him, have denigrated and insulted the previous popes ……. as if they did nothing for the poor ……. as if all those rigid restrictions they imposed are about to be lifted …….

    • Margaret, that’s just the secular world, trying to put their spin on things. Pope Francis certainly never said anything like that at all. In fact, as you know, what he’s saying is entirely consistent with Catholic teaching, including that of previous popes. It’s just media drivel. Just dismiss it for what it is and enjoy being part of this great body of Christ that is His Church.

      Blessings to you Margaret.

  10. This is an excellent article, and one of the best I have read in a while. I don’t think the Holy Spirit erred when guiding the Conclave to select Pope Francis. Keep the dogma. Live the Gospel. The two are not mutually exclusive. Good job, Rep. Hamilton!

  11. When Jesus said to the Pharisees that prostitutes were entering the kingdom of heaven ahead of them it was in the context of the fact that the Pharisees had rejected John the Baptists’ message or repentance, while the prostitutes had accepted it. In other words, they weren’t actually prostitutes anymore; they had repented. DUH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Don’t you think that their conversion was mostly like due to the influence of the Lord in their lives? What if he had just told them they were sinners and to be gone? It was because he cared about them while they were still in their sins that they were saved.

      On a different note, the problem with the Pharisees was that they didn’t acknowledge their own sinfulness. They thought their right-thinking and righteous attitudes were all they needed.

      The essential difference between the prostitutes and the Pharisees was not that the prostitutes were sinners and the Pharisees were not. The difference is that the Prostitutes knew they were sinners and that they needed mercy, whereas the Pharisees were holier-than-thou and terminally self-righteous.

      • Don’t put it in those liberal wishy-washy Christ-denying terms of “acknowledged they were sinners” versus “didn’t acknowledge they were sinners.” Just acknowledge? That’s it? “Ok, I’m a sinner. All saved now that I acknowledged it!” Hogwash! They REPENTED. And the Pharisees didn’t repent. Acknowledging that you’re a sinner doesn’t mean jack squat if you don’t repent.

        • You’re right when you say genuine repentance from the heart is necessary for salvation.

          However, you are also coming across as rude and rather hateful. Why are you being so aggressive and almost accusatory?

          I don’t normally allow people to come onto this blog and hector and insult, but you seem to be trying your best to defend Catholic teaching, so I’m cutting you some slack. Try the soft answer that turns away wrath approach. You can say the same things without being so strident about it, and if you do, other people will be better able to hear you.

            • David, I’m going to allow this just to complete the line of comments. But if you want to comment here in the future, please try to behave better.

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