Thursday, October 9, 2014

Pope Francis' "NO"s

By Victor Codina, SJ
Cristianisme i Justícia Blog
September 30, 2014

The Pope's constant smile, his tender gestures towards children and the sick, his homilies about mercy, his writings about the joy of the Gospel...could offer us a false image of the bishop of Rome were these very positive aspects not complemented by some of his prophetic denunciations, his numerous "NO"s.

Jesus of Nazareth's life and message would also be incomplete and even counterfeit if the beatitudes and his predilection for the poor and the little ones were not completed by his criticism of the scribes and the Pharisees, by his "woe to you rich", by the expulsion of the merchants from the temple which triggered his passion and death on the cross -- "You cannot serve God and mammon."

Francis prophetically denounces the aspects of our society that are contrary to the gospel of the Kingdom: NO to an economy of exclusion and inequality, NO to an economy that kills, an economy without a human face, NO to an unjust social and economic system that is crystallized in unjust social structures, NO to a globalization of indifference, NO to the idolatry of money, NO to money that rules rather than serves, NO to inequality that engenders violence (let no one hide behind God to justify violence), NO to social insensitivity that anesthetizes us to the suffering of others, NO to the arms race and the war industry, NO to human trafficking, NO to any form of induced death...Basically Francis is updating the commandment not to kill and to defend the value of human life from beginning to end. Francis is updating Yahweh's question to Cain, "Where is your brother?"

But along with this prophetic denunciation of our society, Francis also criticizes the attitudes of Christians and the Church that are contrary to the gospel: NO to spiritual worldliness, NO to pastoral acedia (or apathy), NO to sterile pessimism, NO to the prophets of doom, NO to the disenchanted sourpusses, NO to sad Christians with funeral faces that look like Lent without Easter, NO to war among ourselves, let us NOT be robbed of community, of the gospel, of the ideal of brotherly and sisterly love, NO to those who think that nothing can change, NO to a self-referential Church that is closed in on itself, NO to moralistic obsession that forgets the joyful proclamation of the gospel, NO to pastors who think they're the princes of the Church and are always at the airport, NO to clericalism, NO to those who want to go back to the past before the Council [Vatican II], NO to fake happiness and flight attendant smiles, NO to those who convert the sacraments into customs offices and confession into a torture chamber, NO restricting the missionary power of popular piety which is the fruit of the Spirit, NO becoming experts in apocalyptic diagnoses, NO reducing the gospel to a personal relationship with God and à la carte charity, NO to a religion limited to the private sphere and to preparing souls for heaven. Not falling into doctrinal errors isn't enough if we are passive or complicit in injustice and in the governments that maintain it...

Behind Francis' "NO"s is a truly gospel image of the Church and the desire for a better, more just and egalitarian world, closer to the Kingdom of God. Francis' joy is not a worldly joy or fruit of an optimistic temperament but the joy that springs from the gospel of Jesus dead and risen and from the vivifying power of his Spirit: "Don't let them steal our hope."

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