INTRODUCTION: How wonderful that Chuckie got to sing in St. Peter's and meet Pope Francis! I have only read the bits and pieces of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation – mostly the “terrible parts” people have sent me. But I’ve read enough, I think, to make the following comments.
It is disturbing to have received three e-mails in a short time, each one attacking Pope Francis either as a South American socialist/Marxist, as a liberal Jesuit, or just confusing. It seems that some are taking what the Pope says to be against all that a true, red-blooded capitalist American should be.
We are not capitalists. We are Catholics and should rise above the dialectic that seeks to give each person a convenient label. I remember so well when I was in college – that’s 35 years ago – and JPII warned of the dangers inherent in both Communism and Western Capitalism. I thought, “Why would he say anything against capitalism when Communism is the real evil in the world – the enemy that we need to face?” It took a while before I realized that JPII was not just right, but prophetic.
Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation makes it clear that a consumerism and materialistic outlook can lead to the worst of sins. His passages on abortion and the respect due to each human person are so very clear on this. What has our consumerism and materialism led to? Truth and Justice for all? Hardly. And the Untied States is the best example of capitalism we have. Why are babies in the womb being sacrificed by their mothers and so many others trying to prevent a baby’s presence in a womb? Why are the old and the feeble seen as a burden? Are these acts humanitarianly guided by the best that capitalism has to offer, or is it rather a debased outcome of a people that prays that Black Friday will harbinger economic good times so that we can continue to live in comfort in front of our flat screen televisions that spew immorality at a rate that can make one numb? Have we moved into a cyber-space world where our reality fits comfortably on a hand-held device, and the people immediately around us can be closed off and ignored?
We don’t want the poor around. They make us uncomfortable because we know that we have much more than we need or deserve. We want to be comfortable.
I am reading Advent of the Heart by Father Alfred Delp, S.J. He was imprisoned and tortured by the Nazis before his martyrdom. Much of what I am reading in the book Father Delp wrote while handcuffed late at night in his prison cell.
His reflections for the 2nd Sunday of Advent can be summarized in this Latin phrase taken from Baruch 5:5 “Surge et sta in excelso.” “Arise and stand on high.” Here’s my notes. We easily become accustomed to what should not be in our society. Free ourselves from petty entanglements. Take a lofty standpoint. Our field of vision gives us the air that the soul breathes. Establish a personal bond with the figure and mission of Christ. Let Him awaken our hearts and break open our narrowness that confines us within ourselves. This will make us capable of Him.
It might also make us capable of reading and understanding Pope Francis.
In a reflection that he gave before his imprisonment during a Holy Hour during the Second Week of Advent and so very appropriate as we celebrate the Immaculate Conception, Father Delp said, “What transformed the person, Mary, into the motherly Queen of Heaven and Earth is that she recognized God as the God of challenge. She experienced what it means to be torn away from all normal destinies, and, thereby to be caught up in new possibilities. She stands as a healing and helping source of strength”
Pope Francis is calling us to be torn away from all normal destinies and be caught up in new possibilities. To do this we have to see God as the God of challenge, specifically in the poor.
Jezu, ufam Tobie.