To this, I say this is a time for rejoicing! Maybe, just maybe, American Catholics from the bishops to the average parishioner will realize that Pope Francis is not interested in polls. His task is to preach the Good News of Jesus and the message is not conservative nor liberal, it is the Word of God.
Take a minute to take that in. Jesus’ message is not political in of itself. How we choose to live out that message will be different because of our political persuasions. Whether a Fox News viewer or a MSNBC watcher we should able to agree that the Corporal Works of Mercy are good things. Whether individuals, communities, or government are the best mediums to carrying out Jesus’ mission can be and should be debated. The history of our church demonstrates both the wisdom and folly of being in bed with government regimes, as well as the strength and challenges of being the voice in the wilderness out of the mainstream.
Catholic bloggers like Elizabeth Scalia try to articulate the fear of some that Francis will somehow change Church doctrine, “even though” by her own admission, “ nothing this pope has said or done suggests that he is about to change one dot of doctrine. They imagine the worst, and fret that a “watering down” of our teachings would render them meaningless.” By doing this certain power brokers play upon the fears of those threatened by change and “other”. The goal is to render this segment of the population powerless and impotent.
British political blogger John Bloodworth warns his readers that Francis is no different from his predecessors and part of Pope Francis’ popularity is simply a result of “clever repackaging” of the same Catholic propaganda coupled with a troubled society’s search for a new hero. “Pope Francis’ position on most issues should make the hair of every liberal curl,” he says. “Instead we get article after article of saccharine from people who really should know better.” His message is essentially to demoralize those seeking a new focus in life, again leaving readers feeling impotent and despondent about their future.
In the middle of this stands Francis as the Vicar of Christ, proclaiming the message of the Good News. He reminds us that Jesus once lived in a politically polarized world and his view of what the world needed was very different (Luke 4: 16- 21):
He (Jesus) went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Good news, freedom, recovery, emancipation, the Lord’s favor. How this scripture is fulfilled through the eyes of political conservatism or liberalism should not be our concern. How it is fulfilled through the eye of God should be our concern and focus.