Tom Finneran: The Pope Hits A Home Run

Friday, September 27, 2013


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Pope Francis has been winning hearts and minds all over the world since his March election.

Now batting fourth, Pope Francis…

Pope Francis continues to amaze, confound, and impress a world desperately in need of his message. As a Catholic, I am head-over-heels with his substance and his style. Might he become our President? But for the trifles of his citizenship and our Constitution, one might wish for such a happy outcome. But his calling from Jesus, to Jesus, is paramount. Thank the Lord.

Most becoming of all is his meekness and humility. He is “a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze”. If you don’t tremble when you read those words then you really need lots and lots of help. Happily for you the Pope’s message and Jesus’ love is available at all times, just like “on demand TV” only much more important than anything you’ll find there.

As for me, I certainly tremble on contemplating the sins of my life and the judgment of the Lord. Most distressing of all is not the fear of a harsh judgment, but the disappointment I know I have caused to one whose love for me is without condition or limit. I have let the Lord down. Shame and sorrow follow, followed further by the buoyancy of love, forgiveness, and understanding…What a glorious Gospel is the gospel of Jesus.

Impressing the skeptics

Back to the Pope…He is a vessel of kindness in a cruel and unkind world. The recent publication of a lengthy interview with Pope Francis has triggered enormous commentary. No one should doubt that popes remain commandingly relevant and that this Pope, Pope Francis, is desperately needed in a world gone mad. Why even Frank Bruni, op-ed columnist at the New York Times, has gone into a papal swoon.

Consider the irony of anyone at the Times, perhaps the most reflexively anti-Catholic journal in the world and huckster of all manner of lunatic delusions, being smitten by the Pope’s message of humility and love. Yes, Frank Bruni seems smitten with Francis, which only goes to show that God has a great sense of humor.

Actually, Bruni’s point about the Pope’s manner, his humility and his meekness, is very well taken. How urgently needed and how decidedly different it is from the screaming, thrusting, grasping, I’ve-got-to get-mine theatrics of our day. Bruni seems to sense a humble shepherd, awed by “the Lord’s gaze”, and further awed but energized by the scale of his responsibilities.

For a tremendous piece of writing on the Pope’s interview by George Weigel, one of the very best writers on the planet, go here. Weigel’s writing cites a “deeply wounded and not infrequently hostile world” in which the Catholic Church undertakes its evangelization. You don’t have to be a Catholic to appreciate Weigel’s (and the Pope’s) sense that a moral revolution is underway, and that human life is being beggared before our eyes. It’s a horrific revolution, with a toll of millions of people as its physical, psychic, and spiritual casualties. Enter Pope Francis, quietly, without trumpets or fanfare, to console, to guide, to lead, and to heal.

A beacon of hope

Much has been made of Francis’ remark about the Church’s focus on abortion, gay marriage, and contraception as if the Pope was preparing some sort of doctrinal retreat on those issues. He is not. Rather, he seems to me to be saying that the missionary work of the Church must have the utmost, the very highest priority, in that the introduction of Jesus Christ and his Gospel to those who don’t know him is the indispensable element in re-asserting the dignity and value of human life and the primacy of Christ’s teaching on other critical matters.

Consider the words of the hymn “Amazing Grace”:

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me,
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.”

In our wounded world, where too many are lost and many more are blind, where a culture of death reigns in place of a culture of love and life, Pope Francis is heaven-sent. May God bless his work.


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