Homily: Francis, Conveyor of Gospel Joy and Hope

   It has been an awe-inspiring week. Pope Francis has descended on our nation in a burst of non-stop expression of the meaning in the power of the Gospel and the Church in a way that has made it understandable in human and tender terms. The USA had been introduced in a special way to the core of our Faith through this gentle and wise man of God. And we have all learned in a new way, what our Faith really means in universal terms.

   We learned that we know that God never regrets having created our world, and never regrets having made us. So many people came because he was the pope. Most were there because who he was as a man, calling us to love, calling us to forgiveness, calling us to change. He calls us to reject the tyranny of the unthinkable. Francis is one reaching down into our souls, not condemning us, although we know we deserve to be condemned. He is calling us to be better people.

   Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future. Francis is leading with inclusion. He is calling us to be the saints we were created to be. We constantly look to the arrival of persons on the public stage who are unique, and we find ourselves saying, “This may be the man, this may be the woman.” Francis is saying, we all must be the man, the woman. Let us be the leaders, let us unite and change our little world, and ultimately, all the world.

       Gospel Summary

   Today’s gospel speaks of the same realities, except in a more direct way. John the apostle wishes to stop those outsiders who are using Jesus’ name in their exorcisms. Jesus, however, rebukes John with the reminder that he is here to love and to heal; he is not interested in copyrights or credits.

   Jesus then speaks forcefully about what really constitutes sinfulness and where one’s passion should come into play. It is scandal that should arouse our indignation. This means taking advantage of vulnerable people who can so easily be exploited when they should be protected and assisted. These are obviously children, but all vulnerable persons of whatever age are included. This is where real sinfulness lies and the punishment is swift and severe. Gehenna was the place where Jerusalem’s trash was deposited. It was usually smoldering and was infested by all sorts of vermin. It was certainly not where one would hope to end up.

       Life Implications

   The failure to distinguish between major and minor sinfulness is a special danger in the way in which we organize our priorities in life. It is all too easy to be more concerned about appearances and reputation than about the far greater sinfulness of racism or sexism, rejection of immigrants or other kinds of deep-seated prejudice.

   All religions have a tendency to claim exclusive control of the avenues of salvation. But God is surely free to work outside of our familiar religious structures also. It means that we should work in genuine humility to make our own religious structures as open as possible to the saving power of God.

   Both the Gospel and Pope Francis call us to a renewed understanding, one that says people are more important than doctrine. That God’s love is more moving than God’s judgment, and in a refreshing way, that the Joy of the Gospel, like the joy exuded by the Holy Father, is more powerful than all the messages of condemnation in the world.

No comments yet

Comments are closed