Address to Joint Session: Our Pope Channeled Jesus in a Present-Day Sermon on the Mount

Address to Joint Session: Our Pope Channeled Jesus in a Present-Day Sermon on the Mount September 24, 2015

pope-francis.jpgThis is my reaction to Pope Francis’ address to the joint session of  Congress today.

From the National Catholic Register:

Pope Francis channeled Jesus this morning with a contemporary Sermon on the Mount, and it got just about the same results it did 2,000 years ago.

The Holy Father addressed the assembled members of both houses of Congress, the United States Supreme Court, members of the Cabinet and other dignitaries today. In what might very well have been a one-off for a speaker in that situation, he did not speak to them as a politician. He delivered a homily, in fact a re-run of the THE homily, as the shepherd of souls that he is.

If your god resides in the R or the D, there was something to hate and also something to love in this speech. You could, depending on your personality, walk away from it, angry as a snake biting itself. Or, you could, if you’re turned differently, be patting yourself on the back.

The truth of this speech is that it wasn’t a speech, it was a sermon delivered by a Pope who is first of all a priest, who takes the care of souls as his first duty before God. If you listened to what Pope Francis said today with the ear of someone who reads Scripture on a daily basis, the entire speech echoed Jesus, preaching to and teaching us to care for the least of these, Who told us that the measure by which we judge others would be the measure by which God would judge us.

It was clear to me, after my long years of sitting through joint sessions and reading politicians that the assembled body of listeners were as unmoved by the Holy Father’s words as the stone pillars of the building in which they sat. These people do not listen to anyone who stands in that podium — not even the pope — to be instructed. They listen to be affirmed.

When they felt affirmed, they applauded. When the pope said something that differed from their politics, their faces hardened subtly and their eyes filmed over with an “I-won’t-hear-you” glaze.

Pope Francis spoke of the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. He affirmed his life-long opposition to the death penalty, he pled for business practices that provide jobs rather than just suck in wealth for a very few. He spoke against the arms trade that, as he said, sells arms to “those who plan to inflict untold suffering.” He said that this is done “for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.” He called the silence about this arms trade “shameful and culpable.”

Those are strong words from the Vicar of Christ. He told a roomful of elected officials and people of great power that their silence about the arms trade made them “culpable” to the blood-drenched sins of those used those arms to murder innocent people.

The pope spoke of the environment, of immigrants, of the family and of justice and freedom. He couched every word he said in a plea that government be conducted to achieve the common good. He said that working toward the common good was the call of every politician.

As someone who held elective office for 18 years, I absolutely agree with him in this. I would also say that the common good doesn’t get a lot of play in private conversations between elected officials these days. No audience anywhere needed to hear this message more than the one Pope Francis was speaking to this morning.

But they didn’t hear him. Not, at least, as it applied to themselves. Politicians today, as well as many private citizens who have become enthralled with political partisanship, are like the Pharisee who went out to pray at the same time as the tax collector.

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30 responses to “Address to Joint Session: Our Pope Channeled Jesus in a Present-Day Sermon on the Mount”

  1. Thank you Rebecca for your support of Papa Francis. I have read many who claim to be Catholic are unhappy with his speech since they say he did not say enough about abortion and the PP videos.

    • I think that was an unfair characterization to say “claim” to be Catholic. Just as you and Rebecca have every right be supportive of the speech, those of us who think an important opportunity was missed are not necessarily wrong. Not after all the outrage here and elsewhere over the videos. The silence hurts.

        • Ok. I’m going to say this. Once.

          I am a Catholic woman. This is a Catholic blog. I support the pope. This blog supports the pope.

          I’ll allow a certain latitude in thinking through his speech. But not much. I don’t write this blog to provide a forum for criticizing the pope. There are plenty of places you can go for that, if you want it.

          On the other hand, if you just want to express your feelings as a member of his flock, even if those are feelings of disappointment, feel free. Just do it with respect and love for our Papa.

          The pope did not have the option of giving several thousand speeches to say what every person with a bone to pick would have said. He also did not have the option of talking all afternoon. Before you get all critical, try making one of speeches some time. You’ll be more sympathetic afterwards.

      • I read an article yesterday that helped me better understand all the hurt out there with the supposed regards of our Holy Father not mentioning the word abortion specifically. For the record, in case you and others forgot, then Pope Benedict did not either. Were there any protests then that the silence hurt?

        Anyway, this article I found to be quite good. It is written by one of Rebecca’s neighbors, Dave Armstrong. Perhaps you may want to take a looksee.

        “Must the Pope EXPLICITLY Mention Abortion to Congress?”

  2. Rebecca, You are a blessing. I’ve been reading on and off today constant attacks on the pope. From Catholics. One article was … never mind, not worth taking about. But Catholics who are more “conservative” than Catholic can’t get to the heart of the matter. As long as the pope talks about the the sins of others, i.e. abortion, gays, etc., it’s fine. But he is talking to the darkness in the American heart: materialism and avarice. That’s not acceptable.

    • You are exactly right about the sins of others. Easy to feel pious and righteous if I am talking about those sins that wouldn’t ever be relevant in my own life. Harder to face sins I am or can be guilty of.

      Thank you Rebecca. I knew I’d find the analysis I wanted here.

    • The saddest thing is that the two are gravely connected. The number one cause of homosexuality, abortion, divorce, and euthanasia in this country is a lack of the virtue of generosity both internal and external to the family.

    • One blog is asking why our Holy Father did not mention the name of Jesus at the start of his address to Congress. I read that then Pope Benedict did not either.
      Here’s the first quote:

      “Notice something missing from Pope’s talk at White House? The name of Jesus.”

      Phil Lawler is the one asking this. He then says, “Other critics remarked that Pope Benedict XVI had not mentioned Jesus when he appeared at the White House. OK, so then my concern applies to his appearance as well.”

      Anyway, it is just sad that many so-called Catholic conservatives are attacking the Holy Father over what he says or does not say. I am glad he is here and that so many are encouraged by his visit while others are just raging.

      Praying for all concerned.

      • My son was complaining about that without hearing or reading the speech. I said, well he celebrated mass, morning and midday pràyers and vespers. Gripe, gripe, gripe. I finally said neither does Amazing Grace. He goes to an evangelical something.

      • I’ve spent far too much time listening to the bashers the past couple of days. I got banned from a “conservative” site – yes, I’m bragging – because I hit back on the bashers. Actually, there were a couple of good people over there who were fun to talk with, but when your ideology overwhelms your Catholic Faith, as it does too often across the ideological spectrum, then there is something wrong.

        And yes, the differences between Papas Francis and Benedict are the differences between a Latin American pastor and a German theologian.

        • Good for you for standing up for our papa. You’re always welcome here Ken.

          As for banning. I delete. But I never ban. This is the blog of endless second chances. 🙂

        • Same here. I quit certain sites because they were poisoning the faith for me. I mean, gee, it is hard enough to try and there is a lack of support for one another especially for our Holy Father, I am out. I am happy though that he is well received where it really matters and that is very uplifting and affirming.

          I quit the home of JA a while back and I do remember you there. ^^

    • I’m conservative but my complaints are that he is not more forceful in his manner. He’s a little more in Spanish, but only a little. And that his teachings are very process oriented. But, I can see the purpose of both. I agree with him about the problems although some of my solutions are different than his. The only thing I really disagree about is anthropogenic global warming, but that’s completely prudential. So, no, I don’t believe he’s goring my ox. Just have some disagreements on prudential issues.

      • I would say that AGW is bogus, so what’s prudential is how we implement stewardship . That’s a good Baptist word that usually meant money when I was a kid. I think like all of us, they have come to a broader understanding that all we have and all we are is from God, and we are stewards.

  3. Well put. I’m struck by the gospel similarity of the crowds hating Jesus when he refused to say exactly what the crowds wanted to hear. The Pope, like his boss, challenges us to think beyond our comfort zones. Thanks for a great reflection!

  4. This was truly an excellent address! Pope Francis affirmed the good goals of the UN to work for peace and integral human development while offering a corrective to programs that ignore or undermine transcendent human, spiritual, and family values. He explicitly mentioned the sacredness of all human life and necessary protection of the lives of the unborn along with the poor, elderly, etc. Thank you, Patheos, for making the text of this speech available in such a timely manner!

  5. Now that the pope is at the Conference on Families, and is becoming clear how much he is speaking about religious freedom, it’s the left’s turn to rage. Our Papa Francis makes all the correct people mad.

    • I think “the left” are raging and that’s what’s causing the fuss. From our point of view we don’t have our religious freedom. For centuries, whether in Europe or America, non-believers, and believers of various faiths, have been subject to laws influenced or explicitly written based on the majority population’s religious belief. It’s only now at this stage in our social development that we are able to say – whether we are agnostic, atheist, Catholic, Christian, Islamic, Hindu, or any other religion – that laws based on religion are wrong, or rather, not applicable to everyone. For example, this is why we can say gay marriage should be legal and available to 2 consenting adults. If your religion disagrees then you don’t get marry another person of the same sex. This is where you find some examples of gay people (including one or 2 I know personally) that choose to follow their religious beliefs and marry a person of the opposite sex and have children. The secular law isn’t forcing people of the same sex to marry, just allowing them to marry should that be something that they want.

      Despite my disagreement with the existence of any god, I do believe in religious freedom. What I don’t believe in is religious legislation and religious domination, and I think that this is what “the left” disagree with. I put the left in quotes because it’s not just the left that feel this way. Reading through many Patheos blogs you will find many conservatives of many religious backgrounds that feel this way, too.

      And for what it’s worth, I think that the pope’s speeches were excellent, and there are many good takeaways whether or not you are a Catholic. There’s just a lot of common sense in what he’s saying.

  6. As a non-Catholic who totally enjoys being able to comment on Rebecca’s site, I felt the Pope got his message across quite well on all the topics folks expected him to mention, in both Congress and at the UN. If folks listened carefully they would have heard them. I hadn’t heard that some Catholics were disappointed, but (and not being disrespectful) I’m a bit surprised that they were.

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