Tuesday, September 24, 2013
POPE FRANCIS MAY BE THE SUCCESSOR OF SAINT PETER, BUT HE IS VERY MUCH PAULINE IN HIS MISSIONARY THEOLOGY AND STYLE!
My next door neighbor, His Holiness, Pope Francis, is the successor of Saint Peter, no doubt.
This week in our Institute of Continuing Theological Education at the Pontifical College North American at the Casa O'Toole, we have a Jesuit Scripture scholar, who teaches at the Pontifical Gregorian University here in town, an American, Father Scott Brodeur. He is wonderful and he loves Fr. Raymond Brown who I had when I was at St. Mary's in Baltimore, and subsequently for workshops later after I was ordained.
In today's class, which just ended, Fr. Scott touched a bit on 1 Corinthians 9:19-23:
1 Corinthians 9:19-23
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under [a]the Law, as under [b]the Law though not being myself under [c]the Law, so that I might win those who are under [d]the Law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. 23 I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.
Fr. Scott points out in this passage that Saint Paul becomes all things to all people; he has made himself a slave to all in order to save "some" but not "all." In doing so the purpose is to allow God's grace to transform all, justify all who receive it.
Now it seems to me this is what we see Pope Francis doing and those who do not understand Paul and his great missionary activities, won't appreciate Pope Francis and his perspective and are freaking out over the Pope seemingly becoming all things to all people, a slave, if you will, to all depending on who you are.
In Saint Paul's time, those who most vehemently opposed his method of evangelization were those who were fundamentalist Jewish Christians. Paul's rivals are the Judizers who want the Mosaic Law to remain in place for all Christians, even those who convert from being Gentiles. They want circumcision, the dietary laws and the Sabbath day to be Friday night to Saturday not on Sunday. These are the "thorn in the flesh" that St. Paul experiences in his rivals, but this forces him to think things through better.
But Paul's goal is to bring as many as possible to Christ and the Church. He "hooks" the fish as a fisherman, and then leaves it to Christ and the Church to properly form them as Christians.
Isn't this what Pope Francis is doing with his rhetoric, being all things to all people to hook them and reel them into the Church where then they will be formed properly by the traditions and sources of our Catholic faith both in orthodoxy and orthopraxis!
Conservative, fundamentalist Catholics are giving the pope the hardest time. Could it be that they completely misunderstand Pope Francis' hermeneutic based on the passage of St. Paul I quote above?
If you listen to Pope Francis he calls us all to the CCC for more formation. Pope Francis in this regard follows a sort of RCIA format: inquiry, cathecumenate, election, initiation, on-going initiation as neophytes and then as seasoned Catholics.