January 22, 2021

The Homily

I-can-make-a-mess-2013I have heard that a good sermon will comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable. It seems that two men, much much greater than I, have done just this in recent days.

Pope Francis, speaking at the World Youth Day in Rio De Janeiro, certainly afflicted the comfortable when he urged those in attendance to take their faith to the streets and make a mess in their churches.

“I want to tell you something. What is it that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day? I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses!” said the Pope. “I want to see the church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools or structures. Because these need to get out!”

Then, speaking to a luncheon with more than 300 bishops in attendance, Pope Francis urged them to get out of their churches and seek out those who are hurting, who are hungry, who have been shunned by the church.

“We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel,” Francis said. “Let us courageously look to pastoral needs, beginning on the periphery (of where we live), with those who are farthest away, with those who do not usually go to church. They, too, are invited to the table of the Lord.”

A few weeks before this, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia did his own afflicting of the comfortable when he said,

“A new evangelization must start with the sober knowledge that much of the once-Christian developed world, and even many self-described Christians, are in fact pagan.”

Did he really say that many who think themselves Christians are really pagans? Yes, he did. And, from my standpoint, I would say he is right. Wikipedia tells us that “pagan” can be used to describe a person who is “sensual, materialistic, self-indulgent, unconcerned with the future and uninterested in sophisticated religion.” That describes much of the Christianity and many of the Christians I observe.

Archbishop Chaput continued,

“Christian faith is not a habit. It’s not a useful moral code. It’s not an exercise in nostalgia. It’s a restlessness, a consuming fire in the heart to experience the love of Jesus Christ and then share it with others – or it’s nothing at all.”

If this causes you to feel afflicted, perhaps you have been too comfortable in your faith. I know I have been. Let’s take a closer look at his statement.

Christian faith is not a habit. What is a habit? It has been called a tendency or regular pattern of behavior that occurs automatically, without thinking. Is that what your faith has become? Has it become so automatic that you don’t even think of what you are doing, or who you are doing it for? Is faith for you something that is alive, or are you just going through motions? Habits can be deadly to real life.

Christian faith is not a useful moral code. We all want to be seen as good, moral people. Who would want to be known as evil and immoral? The Jews had a moral code that was as good as any. Then Jesus came and afflicted the comfortable. He raised the bar so high, no one could reach it. “You have heard it said don’t commit adultery. I tell you don’t even think lustful thoughts. And you’ve heard that you are not to murder. Well, I tell you not to even get angry with others.” Great. You want to be moral? Try to reach Jesus’ demands. Of course, Jesus knew what he was saying was impossible. He was guiding his listeners, like a shepherd, to the narrow gate that can only be entered by faith, not by moral goodness.

Christian faith is not an exercise in nostalgia. We all have memories that give us good feelings. There are songs that recall a milestone in our life that we return to again and again. These are not bad things in and of themselves. God himself calls us to remember what he has done in days of old. But we are not to live in our memories. We are not to reside in the past. “The way things have always been” is very harmful to a living faith.

Look at the rest of the archbishop’s statement. It’s a restlessness, a consuming fire in the heart to experience the love of Jesus Christ and then share it with others – or it’s nothing at all. Christianity a restlessness? Yes—a holy restlessness. C.S. Lewis referred to it as a one always looking for a better spot for a picnic. Christianity should create a hunger in us, a hunger that cannot be satisfied in this life. And true faith must include a consuming fire, for we are told our God is a Consuming Fire.

And if we are not sharing this Fire with others, then have we really embraced it ourselves? If we are not, as the pope has instructed Catholic youth to do, making messes of our churches and our neighborhoods and our worlds, have we been embraced by the Fire?

If our faith is simply moral goodness and memories of the past, if it does not move us to make a mess of our world, then it is a dead faith. So this is your assignment this week. Examine yourselves to see if your faith is causing you to be restless, to get outside of your church and make a mess. I look forward to hearing what you find in yourself.

Let us pray.


  1. A Christian is one who has been declared righteous and holy for Jesus’ sake. Not one who has all his ducks lined up just so and whose behavior is decidedly Christian.

    Many who spend all their time at soup kitchens and homeless shelters in the name of Christ, may in fact be pagans. (Matthew 7:21-23)

    How’s that, Archbishop Chaput?

    We walk by faith, and not by sight. “The wheat and tares grow together. Don’t mess with them.”

    • Christiane says


      you quote Matthew 2:21-23, but it speaks about lawless people . . .
      but the thing is that if someone is kind enough to give their time in service to the hungry and the homeless, I don’t think they would be called ‘lawbreakers’ by Our Lord.
      Take a look at this: “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

      So when you say this:
      “Many who spend all their time at soup kitchens and homeless shelters in the name of Christ, may in fact be pagans.” (Matthew 7:21-23)

      perhaps you are looking at the goodness and kindness of these people the wrong way, as something that does not reflect the love of Christ . . . well, you might see it that way, but then if you have to look at this part of the Matthean Gospel also, you may change your mind:
      ” “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” (from Matthew 25)

      Actually, I think that the Christians who feel they ‘don’t have to’ reach out to those on the fringes of our society in His Name . . . those Christians who are the smug ones, who call themselves ‘saved’ and say ‘Lord, Lord’
      . . . I’m not so sure about these people who will not to actively love others in His Name . . .

      no, I would put my money on the ones who are standing over the soup pots with a ladle in their hand, and the ones who are slicing the bread and distributing it to the hungry and who KNOW they are there ‘in His Name’
      . . . because they also know the ‘WHY’ . . . ‘whatever you do for the least of Mine, you do also to Me’

      • No…it speaks about faithless people who are using the law (what ‘they do’) to try and justify themselves.

        There is a huge difference between the obedience to the law…and the obedience of faith. Someone ought get out the Book of Romans and explain that to the Pope…and to the Archbishop. And to all who think that they somehow are advanced in God’s eyes by what they do. The Book of Galatians is another great read that puts the lie to that sort of thinking.

        We what we ‘do’…or ‘do not do’ has absolutely NO bearing on our justification before the Lord. They had a great big Reformation over that whole idea. And it is obviously still very much needed.

        • Marcus Johnson says

          True, what we do has no bearing on our justification, but faith without works is dead, and I think that’s what this homily is about, and I think that’s what your gliding over in your response to both the homily and Christiane. There’s nothing in either the Pope’s or the Archbishop’s statement that indicates that the call to action is prompted by a desire to earn salvation. Rather, they both seem to affirm that the genuine response ot salvation should result in good works.

          You’re absolutely right that there is nothing we can do to earn salvation, but the response of the Christian to salvation should be one of restlessness. How can we receive so much grace and be content with living in a world with social injustice? If we have really been hit with the love of God, can we really be content with ignoring the underserved, the unnoticed, the unloved?

          All true Christians are saved, but they are also working. That seems to be the point of this homily.

          • Marcus,

            Luther wanted to throw out the book of James for the very idea you mentioned. Of course you (and James) are correct. The primary sin of the Pharisees was exactly this kind of reformed lawlessness. The fact is that it is precisely because we should do good works but claim “inability” as the reason we don’t that God will declare “away from Me, I never knew you.” Obviously, if you separate yourself from your good works, you put your relationship with God OUTSIDE yourself. If you cannot be affirmed or denied by your willingness to obey Christ in good works, then there is no YOU in the equation at all. The logical outcome of this kind of neo-reformed “sound doctrine” is a love which grows cold, abuse in the church, and an elevation of “pastor” to hyper authoritarian despot.

            Which is what we are seeing in Protestant Christianity in America in the form of the all-devouring evil of new Calvinism.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            The logical outcome of this kind of neo-reformed “sound doctrine” is a love which grows cold, abuse in the church, and an elevation of “pastor” to hyper authoritarian despot.

            A Christianity which resembles Communism with different semantics Purity of Ideology for “sound doctrine”; People’s Commissar for “pastor”, and abuse and despotism justified by The Inevitable Dialectic of History instead of “God’s Sovereign Will.”

          • Ouch, Argo. But, yeah.

          • HUG,

            Exactly right.

        • Steve M,

          The perennial soteriological problem that occurs between RC’s and Protestants is the failure to understand the difference in how both groups use the same terms.

          As you pointed out by citing Romans and Galatians, our Justification is entirely the action and work of God. RC’s would agree with that and add that we’re not saved by our faith or works, but by the grace of God. They would also point out that though our Justification is a punctiliar event, our Sanctification (taking on the “mind of Christ”) is a life-long task in which we cooperate with God. That process of continuing conversion is also acknowledged by many Protestants.

          In Galatians and Romans Paul is speaking in terms of Justification. James’ epistle addresses the necessity of Sanctification.

          • But Catholic theology also teaches that the Christian can lose their status as justified, the “state of grace” in Catholic terminology, through mortal sin; at that point only the Sacrament of Reconciliation can restore their status of justification before God. I can’t tell you the torment I experienced as a boy and young man when I tried to make an adequate confession of all my known sins according to Catholic moral theology as I had been made to understand it in catechism.

            The confessional was a place of dread for me where I was expected to unveil my darkest secrets to a man who was a virtual stranger; the price for not admitting known sin to this virtual stranger during confession was to compound that sin with the additional mortal sin of abusing the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

            The net result was that I felt condemned by God for not being virtuous enough to be totally forthcoming in confession, and I came to view confessionals as dark, sepulchral closets where my distance from the “state of grace,” from the status of being justified,was always in danger of being increased rather than removed.

            I will never go back into one of those closets again, and I don’t believe that God requires me to go into one to have access to his saving grace.

            Thank God for the Reformation.

      • One more thing, Christiane.

        Are you quite sure that you are doing enough? And with the right (pure) motives?

        You must be one of those who spends her spare time at the nursing homes and in the jails visiting the prisoners…right? And I’m sure you live on a thin margin of income and give the rest to the poor. I’m sure you are probably just borrowing the computer that you are writing viewing this site with.

        Or…maybe you had better get busy and get down to that soup kitchen and grab hold of that laddle a bit more often. But make sure that you are not thinking about what you’ll get out of it. Make sure your motives are pure and selfless…lest the whole thing become a “righteous deed” that resembles a “filthy rag”.

        • Robert F says

          And of course, where does performance orientated Christianity leave those on the margins who can barely get by? Are they second class Christians because they have no extra income to give to others, because they are too busy working two jobs to survive to spend time at the local soup kitchen, because they are homebound due to disability?

          It seems to me the exhortations given by the Pope to shake things up can only be for the numerically small affluent classes of Brazilian society, not the teeming masses of poor and disenfranchised; he does not seem to be speaking to them, the majority of Brazilian society, about what it would mean for them, in their real poverty, to be Christian.

          Any works related litmus test for the quality of one’s faith can only exclude them; and that exclusion speaks volumes about the lack of validity of any works related litmus test for the quality of one’s faith.

          Did the Pope speak directly to the poor in his other comments? Or did he exhibit the tendency of most privileged people by speaking only to the privileged and affluent, and acting as if the poor were not in the same room with the rest of us?

          The poor are Christians, too; they cannot meet the works-related requirements for testing the validity of their own faith, though they may obviously know the fire in the heart to share Christ, perhaps the only thing they will ever have to share in this life, by witnessing to his presence in their own lives.

          • It was to 300 bishops that he was telling to get out into the communities. And even when he was speaking to a larger group of people including non-clerical, it was mainly the clerical folks that he was talking about when he said, “I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools or structures. Because these need to get out!.” So, I don’t think he is telling “poor” people to “do more” than they are doing; he is telling the “professional” Christians to bring Jesus to a hurting world, not stay cooped up in their safe little homes.

          • Robert F says

            Also, regarding “the consuming fire in the heart to experience the love of Jesus Christ and then share it with others”: In past posts on this blog, the metaphor of “being on fire for Jesus Christ” has been criticized and derided as reflecting a superficial and emotional approach to discipleship, often practiced in evangelical churches, that lacked depth and realism and enlisted people in programs that resulted in overcommitment and burnout; the blog hosts and many commentators were very critical about this metaphor as they had experienced it in evangelical churches.

            Is the idea that faith requires a “consuming fire in the heart to experience the love of Jesus Christ and then share it with others” any different from “being on fire for Jesus Christ,” or is the only difference that it’s okay for Catholics to use the metaphor but not for evangelicals?

            Why the double standard?

          • Robert F says

            Thanks for the clarification.

          • Bishops ought do what Bishops ought do.

            That’s not for me to say. I always thought it was to make sure that the gospel Word was protected. To keep the church in line with respect to the gospel and how that Word was handled.

            My comments, and maybe this was the WRONG place for them, was for the average Joe and Mary in the pew.

            Sorry to get everyone all roused up for my misunderstanding.

          • “If this causes you to feel afflicted, perhaps you have been too comfortable in your faith. I know I have been.”

            I think this is what Jeff wrote.

            Maybe that is what set me off…seeing as how Jeff (I believe) is NOT one of those 300 Bishops.

            Sometimes we get the false impression that what must be good for the Bishop, must be good for me. it doesn’t work that way. We (Christians) are not all marching around like a facist army in goose-step. Or shouldn’t be. The Reformation doctrine of vocation is spot on in that case.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Thank you, Joanie, for understanding this. Sigh …

            SM is just too tunnel-visioned into “NO POPERY!” and “Justification by FAITH FAITH FAITH!” Long ago, I had such burdens tied onto my back by The Godly(TM); spent between 10 and 20 years among the Nones until I found a church which actually accepted me — Romish Popery.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            And even when he was speaking to a larger group of people including non-clerical, it was mainly the clerical folks that he was talking about when he said, “I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools or structures. Because these need to get out!.”

            Clericalism: The Heresy that only ordained Clergy (and vowed Monks, and Nuns) matter before God and all the rest of us of little faith can go to Hell. Or at best, settle for the cheap seats in Heaven — Pay, Pray, and OBEY, eternally plauing second-fiddle to the True Faithful.

            Which never, ever happens among Born-Agains with their Pastors, Missionaries, Rock-Star Worship Leaders, Megachurch Elders, and On-Fire Full Time Christian Workers(TM).

          • HUG,

            I don’t mind Popes. Especially when (and if) they would echo St. Paul, and Christ alone for sinners.

            When they (the Popes) send people back into themselves and rob them of their assurance so dearly won for us on the cross and in our Baptism…then not so much.

        • Just in the nick of time, Steve Martin, Witchfinder General. What an interesting/alarming comment from ARGO, thank you for that, thank you to ALL commenters here.

        • This is exactly the kind of “my theology is right yours is wrong, turn or burn!” argumentativeness that turns my stomach after spending my first 30 years of life in Evangelicalism. Granted, the EV(tm) aren’t the only ones guilty of this, but lord am I sick of this. There’s no conversation in it, just yelling.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            The Communists were also very much into “my theology is right” except they called it Purity of Ideology.

        • Susan Paxton says

          Steve, I hardly can believe the things you write. You clearly are someone who follows Paul, not Jesus Christ. Matthew 25, Steve. Matthew 25.

          Faith without works is truly dead, no matter what assorted “reformers” claimed, You are one of the Mitt Romneys who laugh at the poor, believe their “faith” has saved them, and will not be laughing on the last day.

          • Josh in FW says

            I don’t think that’s fair to Mitt Romney. He’s a nice guy and I doubt that he laughs at the poor.

      • Excellent reply! Word!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Many who spend all their time at soup kitchens and homeless shelters in the name of Christ, may in fact be pagans. (Matthew 7:21-23)

      Because they didn’t walk the aisle at the Altar Call(TM) and say The Sinner’s Prayer(TM) word-for-word?

      How’s that, Archbishop Chaput?

      We walk by faith, and not by sight.

      As in sit on our butts with our FAITH FAITH FAITH FAITH FAITH while everything goes to Hell around us? After all, It’s All Gonna Burn — any minute now… any minute now… any minute now…

  2. Amazing entry..I am definitely looking forward to more of Pope Francis’s sermons..Francis of Assisi rebuild the church ages ago..it is time for a revival!

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      +1 This guy really is a breath of fresh air; a religious leader who appears to live in, and connected to, the real world (you know, the one actual people live in).

      Queue the salvation-is-by-faith-alone-not-works-grace-vs-law-grace-grace-grace-crowd [since the Pope mentioned actually doing something]. Thank goodness for the volume knob.

  3. Great writing, Jeff. I’m going to be thinking about this a lot today.

  4. David Cornwell says

    Just a very brief response, and have not read every word written by Jeff, so I may miss the point (getting ready for church).

    But I think these statements by Pope Francis and the others are a call to the Church to break away from the status quo, to break out of the power structures, and to meet the needs of the world at every level. I loved it when I read it in the paper yesterday and read it to Marge.

    I agree with Damaris, the church needs rebuilding and it is time for real revival.

  5. I consider myself catholic with a small c, I have always thought of works as being the outward sign of faith, it is not enough to sit complacently and hold my faith inside my head, rather my actions reflect the fire of faith burning within me. As James and the Holy Spirit says, I will show you my faith by my works. I seek to follow Christ ‘s teachings because I believe in him and his way is like honey to my soul, I follow him because I believe him, my heart finds its home in his teaching. This much I learned from reading Jesus’ words.

  6. Jeff,

    Wonderful post….thank you! As always your reflections reveal deep working of the spirit in your heart to be able to see certain things.

    I find it so very sad when others are so boxed in to their own perspective that they are unable to “see” with the eyes of their heart what is being said. It is sad when they so cling to their perspective and so defend it that they don’t see how they are afraid to allow their perspective to be challeneged…even challenged by God Himself… An insecurity within themselves, often that they are most likely unaware of, is keeping them from allowing even the Words of Scripture, thus The Holy Spirit, to shake up their own lives and thinking and bring them to a deeper relationship with God where they truly become the embodiment of all that Jesus taught, did, was / IS. How this must sadden the Holy Spirit when we don’t allow Him to awaken in us things He so wants us to know and experience – a greater knowing is a greater intimacy – yet even this thought of intimacy they fear and run from. We all at times fight against The Spirit of God Himself clinging to “our” thoughts as though God Himself needs to be taught by us what is “true” christianity.

    The All Consuming Fire is the Spirit of God burning away through the Fire of His Love all that is not God, all that is not the image of Jesus. May we always be open to this Fire of Love to become all that we were created to be – images of God in a broken and hurting world. If this Fire of Love is truly burning in our hearts we cant but go out from oursleves to see the image Jesus Crucified in the lives of others and so love them through our actions. True Love is never stagnant. It always seeks to give of iteself to its beloved….We can not say we truly Love God whom we cannot see if we do not love our neighbor whom we can see…For truth is, whatever we do to the least of our brethren we do to Jesus – what ever we refuse to do to for neighbor we refuse to do for Jesus. “Those that have ears let them hear…..”

  7. Paradoxically, the popularity of Pope Francis among the “pagans” is very high. We’ll see what happens when he will talk about sexual morality. For now, he has never made any mention of the Catholic doctrines “politically incorrect” in the pagan culture he criticizes.

    • When I speak of doctrine “politically incorrect” in today’s pagan culture I speak of abortion, the indivisible nature of the marriage, birth control, the role of women in the church, etc..

      • James the Mad says

        Um, so now Christianity has been reduced to the Culture Warrior’s checklist?

        Please tell me I’m reading you wrong on this!

        • James the Mad says

          (response to Lector)

        • Ok… you’re wrong on this…

          Certainly, Francis isn’t talking about what the Gospel. He’s talking about how Christians, specifically Christian leaders, should live. I don’t know why that is so controversial. Certainly there are people who have taken such things and turned them into legalism, but I don’t see that here. He admonishing those who are supposed to represent Christ to actually live lives that look like Him.

          I’m not really sure how you are tying anything he said in with the culture wars. If anything, it’s almost the total opposite. Most culture warriors are convinced they are God’s chosen, and because of that they start thinking the rules apply differently to them than they do to others.

          • My last comment was meant to be in response to James the Mad.

          • Um… Scratch that… I see that in the confusion of who was replying to whom, I mistook James the Mad’s comment to be in response to the original post. I see he was responding to someone else. My bad…

        • James the Mad,
          maybe I expressed myself badly. I also ask pardon for my terrible English. What I meant is that the Pope Francis has a lot of popularity in cultural circles traditionally hostile to the Catholic Church (at least in Europe). In my opinion, this is due to the fact that, for now, the Pope spoke mainly about social justice and sensitivity to the weak, the poor and socially excluded. Instead, as many analysts point out, he has not yet talked about topics most delicate and unpopular as abortion, the indivisible nature of the marriage, birth control, homosexuality, the role of women in the church, etc.
          This observation does not pretend to be a criticism, just an observation. Instead his predecessor Benedict XVI immediately earned the hostility of many media because the center of gravity of his speech was different, or so it was perceived.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      What? He gave a press conference on the plain *immediately* after Rio, where he talked about women in the church and homosexuality. His comments were covered as a headline on the BBC and the BBC World.

  8. One thing never fails – when a church leader draws the intimate connection between faith and charitable behavior (the one can’t exist without the other), there never ceases to be an outcry that one’s salvation is independent of one’s actions.

    If you look at the gospels and Jesus’s words, I don’t think that idea is defensible. The gospel is more than right-thinking. It’s also right-doing. Only in a western mindset are the two actually separate. Jesus drew less of a distinction – right thinking always results in right doing. If there is no right doing, then the right thinking is mere self deception.

    • +1

    • James the Mad says

      That’s because we have abandoned the Jewish concept, in which works were considered an integral part of one’s faith, and replaced it with the Roman idea of mere assent. How else do you think we’ve come to the point where simply raising one’s hand and saying a quick prayer has replaced the fullness of true faith?

      • Are you sure it’s a “Roman” idea. Rome has preserved the idea that faith and works are somehow integrated.

      • There is an intimate connection between faith and works. Faith without works is dead, that is, there is not.
        This is undoubted.
        But without wishing to enter into controversy, there is also a distinction and it is not a distinction invented centuries later or unknown to the early Christians. It is right to establish intimate connections, but without canceling the necessary distinctions: there’s a justice based on faith and there’s a justice based on good works.
        I’m always struck by what Paul says to the Corinthians: “If I give away everything I own, and if I give over my body in order to boast, but do not have love, I receive no benefit.” I can give my life for the poor, I can give all my goods to the needy, and do not have the love of God in me.
        God, not us, is the first source of love. And God gives us his love in Christ by faith. And the faith that comes from God in Christ acts through the love given to us as a gift by the Spirit of God. True love (and therefore good works) is a gift of God. True love always comes from God, and good works are really “good” only if they come from the love of God, which is received in Christ by faith alone.
        The other side of the coin is that, where there is love, there are necessarily good works. And where there are no good works, there is not even faith.

        • Yes, Lector. The trouble starts when people come to believe that the love that St. Paul is talking about is love that they have to generate themselves rather than the love of God given to and through them. Human love is always a limited resource hemmed in by all kinds of conditions and contingencies; it soon brings us to a place of resentment where we feel entitled to receive something back from those to whom we believe we have given much. It always involves a transaction.

          But the love of God is endless and leads to freedom from contingencies and conditions. We know we have this love in us when we can give to others in obedience to God without receiving anything tangible back; I think of Mother Theresa who gave and gave for decades out of obedience to a command she had heard from God early in her life even though after that initial commission she had no experience of his presence or support for the rest of her days. That is the hard road of the cross, that is to share in Jesus’ Passion, that is to work in the channel of God’s unending love and grace.

          That is a total gift; I hope I shall be able to rest in it one day.

    • +1 and amen. Heaven forfend that we remember that Jesus called us to a radical obedience…

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > One thing never fails – when a church leader draws the intimate connection between
      >faith and charitable behavior (the one can’t exist without the other), there never ceases
      > to be an outcry that one’s salvation is independent of one’s actions.

      Yep. Evangelicals have assume the role of the hair splitting faith killing Pharasees.

      I feed the hungry… so clearly I believe in salvation by works. The attitude is revolting.

      >If you look at the gospels and Jesus’s words, I don’t think that idea is defensible.

      It is worse and indefensible; the grace-vs-law meme is simple poppycock.

      > gospel is more than right-thinking. It’s also right-doing. Only in a western mindset
      > are the two actually separate

      It isn’t a Western problem. I’m western – I don’t see the distinction. It is an Evangelical problem where everything must be defined in the grace/law paradigm.

  9. David Cornwell says

    I think the faith vs works dichotomy that some are seeing in these statements is a false one. When Christ lives in one’s heart, then the love of God also resides there. Loving one’s neighbor as oneself isn’t a static affair. It isn’t that a person is trying to gain salvation through works. It is simply living out one’s faith and love into the world. This is what should be burning within us. And sometimes this has the power to upset the status quo, to turn something upside down. This is why we pray “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth…”. His kingdom is upsetting.

    ”Let us courageously look to pastoral needs, beginning on the periphery (of where we live), with those who are farthest away” said Pope Francis. I’m not a Catholic, nor will I likely become one, but I certainly like what I’m hearing in this instance.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      >I think the faith vs works dichotomy that some are seeing in these statements is a false one


  10. Robert F says

    Perhaps Pope Francis’ exhortations are an attempt to make amends for the fact that he did not “make trouble” during Argentina’s Dirty War but instead played it safe, unlike Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador who bravely spoke out in the name of Jesus Christ against government oppression and was martyred as a result.

  11. HeartCry says

    consider the be mountain promises.
    consider those in heart who have said, “I don’t want to inharrit the earth.”

    lots of talk about Mary’s spirit…
    how she held Christ, dead
    And wrapped Him in burial clothes..
    and waited outside the tomb.

    what kind of soul would do this?

    do you think she’s organizing a rally somewhere?

    “that you look good”

    Gee, maybe it would have something to do with the earth.

    What if the world said, “no Mary, I don’t want you to be near me.”
    Would Mary say, honestly, “Ok… it’s your choice. Glad my secrets are hidden.”
    AFTER Christ’s resurrection?!!

  12. I feel like a pastor whose congregation is world-class at missing the point.

    • Marcus Johnson says

      I feel your pain, Jeff, just don’t throw us all into the same pot. I think that, for every person on this blog who thinks that the Pope is on a slippery slope to introducing indulgences as a way to ensure our place into heaven, there is someone else whose heart was moved by both the Pope and the Archbishop’s speech, and your response to it.

      Perhaps there is way too much anti-Catholic sentiment just under the surface of these responses, and it only takes a little prick to unleash it. Could it be that Pope Francis, for all of his political and theological differences from most Protestant denominations, is closer to identifying how we should live as redeemed sinners than us Protestants who think we have it all figured out? And, if so, does that make us jealous?

      Don’t worry, Pope Francis. Just shake those haters off…

    • Agree with Marcus. I don’t think Pope Francis’ point has been missed. I think it was just unpalatable.

      But then, we don’t believe imputed righteousness is The Gospel ®. The Reformation never made it into our neck of the woods. Father spoke about Pope Francis’ remarks today in his homily, saying the Orthodox should take it to heart as well

    • Christiane says

      for some reason, what I get from Francis reminds me of an old rabbinical story about where the Messiah can be found when He comes

      . . . the rabbi tells the one who wants to know to go and look ‘outside the gates among the lepers’, and there the Messiah can be found, himself afflicted with leprosy.
      The Messiah can be recognized as the one helping to bind up the wounds of the others . . .

      What is Francis saying to us?
      Would going out to the margins to minister physically to the outcasts of humanity help us to become closer to Our Lord spiritually ? (I use ‘we’ and ‘us’ to mean ‘the Church’ in the widest sense of the word ekklesia)

      • Marcus Johnson says

        More important than, “What is Francis saying to us?” is the question, “What is God saying to us?”

        Yes, there is always the essence of the Pope’s message, which should have immediate impact for us. But this message has implications for Protestants and Catholics alike, and it comes from the voice of an authority figure whom many in Protestant denominations fear, distrust, even loathe.

        So, what is God saying to us?

    • Josh in FW says


  13. The Pope spoke forcefully to the teens gathered (the wealthy and the poor) to be apostles who serve especially those on the two extremes of life: the very young and the old. The poor, as well as the wealthy, are called to mission and service. It might not be by spending money, but there are lots of ways to serve without spending money. The Pope spoke to the rich and poor, lay people and bishops, that we are called to share in the mission of Christ: to proclaim a year of favor, to preach the good news, to heal minds and hearts and bodies and to deliver captives. The poor are not excluded from the call.

  14. Thanks for this post, Jeff. My appreciation for this Pope continues to increase.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      +1 Great post Jeff, I was wondering if Rio would get air time on IM. The comments are just what they were expected to be; that doesn’t reflect on your post.

  15. Good post Jeff – it reminded me of James 1:27

    Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

  16. Late to this…

    It seems to me that Pope Francis is shaking things up a bit. He is shaking up the youth, for parishes that have become complacent and are accepting the status quo.

    He is shaking up the Bishops, so that by his example, they are out there among the people, they should carry the heavy burden of sustaining the faith and works of Mercy.

    Too many here are reading too much into this or are looking for nuances or implied meanings that are just not there.

    Pope Francis also just made a statement on gays that I am sure will also cause controversy… but he is keeping within Catholic teaching on this subject… with compassion.

    • Rick Ro. says

      I agree. Seems to me the new Pope is trying to shake the Catholic Church out of its “country club” mentality. Since my church has had its own “country club mentality” issues, I think it’s great!

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