Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Living by Law or by Love

Pope Francis troubles me, but in a way that challenges and grows me.

My personality is more like Pope Benedict XVI's style - I want to lay down the law and stick to it, no matter who challenges it or breaks it. I want a set of rules to live by, knowing that if I follow them, I can't go wrong. If others choose not to follow, that's ok - I'll just hold fast on my own and keep myself pointed down the right path.

But that's not everything.

On New Years, my friend and I wrote down our spiritual retreat questions (read them here to have your own mini-retreat), then we picked out the hardest one to answer and focused on it during our discussion and prayer. For me, that question was "What are you avoiding talking about with God?"

Now, if the question had been, "What have you avoided talking about with God in the past", it would have been a cinch! I know the things that used to hold me back, and I know how much I grew as I started to let go, be open with God, and listen to His will instead. On New Years, I was ready to tackle that same honesty and growth once again.

As I reflected, I realized that I wasn't fully embracing Pope Francis as the Church's leader. And until that night, I hadn't given it a second thought. He was getting a lot of publicity and changing the world's view on this "stuffy" organization, which is pretty cool. But he also "went against the rules." He washed the feet of women and non-Catholics during his first two weeks as pope. He decided not to live in the papal apartments. When asked about homosexuality, he said, "Who am I to judge?". These actions didn't make sense to me - why would he go against tradition and not stick up for "the rules"? I worried that he was giving the wrong impression, showing that the Church as open to change and not sticking up for the long-held tradition. He was making me nervous and uncomfortable - I even hesitantly called him a "loose canon", as we can't assume he'll do what we expect.

But as I'm reading through Matthew, I'm beginning to realize how much Pope Francis is like Jesus. Yes, there are rules, but love is the greatest rule.

You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.  -Matthew 22:37-38

Pope Francis lives this every day. His action and words show his love for God through his care for everyone, not just loyal Catholics. Jesus did the same thing - He died for everyone, not just for those who stood by His side.

Pope Francis is shifting the focus of the Church back to its original purpose and to the basic teachings of Jesus. Multiple times throughout the gospel, Jesus or his disciples do something that is "against the rules". They pick heads of grain on the sabbath; they don't fast on the appointed days; Jesus eats with those who are unclean; and He allows the blind and lame to come to Him in the temple, where they were forbidden. I didn't realize how strongly He stuck up for these actions until I started my daily meditation.

Jesus consistently put love first, above rules. The rules are serve as a guide to support us in that love. Are they important? Absolutely. But they are secondary, and if throwing them in the face of others goes against love, then we aren't really following the number one rule.

I love Pope Benedict and his care in teaching and passing on Tradition. Now I'm starting to love Pope Francis for displaying the reason behind Tradition.

Through this deeper understanding of Jesus, God has begun to open my heart to fully embrace Pope Francis and his unorthodox methods, because really...well...he's right.

So I want you to consider: what are you avoiding talking about with God?

Hosea 6:6 for it is love that I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than holocausts

No comments:

Post a Comment