This post is by our frequent commentator Phillip Augustine
friend of mine, who is a Deacon in the Catholic Church, is a big fan of Pope Francis. In conversations with him on topics of Catholicism and theology he often refers to the current pontiff with a boyish name of “Frankie.” The Deacon knowing that I have a great devotion to Pope St. John Paul II and his struggles in Poland has often attempted to find ways to introduce Pope Francis into the conversation. One of the conversations with the Deacon, he requested that I read Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. Of course, as one who likes to dabble in academia, I already have a very long reading list– but nonetheless, I’ve now begun to peruse the pages of this text at my friend’s request.
I surmise that one of the reasons why the Deacon wishes for me to read the Pope’s Exhortation is due to our theological conversations, which no doubt, has shown my theological output to be gilded in High Christology. However, when reading the first few pages of the Exhortation, I am reminded that it would be foolish to attempt to separate Christ’s compassion, miracles, and sacrifice from High Christology. The problem that I opine is that in our post-Vatican II era is the “Jesus loves you Gospel” or the “Hippie God” that has been co-opted by either enemies of the faith such as secular atheist or those in grave error due to poor catechesis. Notwithstanding, I would like to articulate that I do not oppose Pope Francis—at least not in the manner as many of my faithful Traditionalist brothers and sisters in the faith. Pope Francis’ words, when clear, do have value for the Body of Christ in the world, and we must trust in the Holy Spirit for its selection of this particular Pope for the good of the faithful and the bride of Christ.
In my very early reading of the Pope’s words, there is a thought that I wish to touch on for Catholic readers. Pope Francis writes:
“25. I am aware that nowadays documents do not arouse the same interest as in the past and that they are quickly forgotten… I hope that all communities will devote the necessary effort to advancing along the path of a pastoral and missionary conversion which cannot leave things as they presently are. “Mere administration” can no longer be enough.”
There is wisdom in these words, and not because they’re the Pope’s words, but because they are the Truth and they get to the heart of Christianity. A great many are of the opinion that our culture is dying; I being one of them. However, what the Pope says here, speaks to the reversal of such a death. The early Christian church did not defeat persecution at the hands of the Roman Empire by its administrative prowess, but it convinced a great throng of people by the authentic faith living as a suffering servant. It’s certainly true that early Christians went to their deaths because they believe Christ to be God, but that’s simply not all of the story. They also listened to the teachings of Christ, which relates to a path of pastoral and missionary conversion throughout the world.
Finally, I ask readers to consider a pastoral and missionary conversion within the context of two instances of Christ’s preaching.
The first is from the Sermon on the Mount—The Beatitudes:
Mt. 5:3-10 NAB
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 [e]Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 [f]Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
6 Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 [h]Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The second is from the Judgment of the Nations:
Mt. 25: 34-46 NAB
34 Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous[p] will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ 40 And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ 41 [q]Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ 44 [r]Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ 45 He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ 46 And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”