The other week I heard some people talking about the new attitude that Pope Francis brings to the universal church. They mentioned that in spite of the ideological twisting of the public media and even politicians his message was, in their words, ‘the same words just with different music.’ In fact, the Holy See has been so worried about these manipulations of the Pope’s message they came out this past Tuesday with an announcement to be careful:
‘we would like to alert all readers to be careful and not to trust too soon news about the Pope that are not from the Vatican … We encourage all readers to check the official Vatican media sources for further confirmation of Pope Francis’ statements, or even to check what exactly he said with reference to specific issues.’
With that said, our new pope has made a difference. It is true that Pope Francis has given a vitality to the Church’s message. He has energized the mission of Catholicism and has enlivened Catholics. He talks of a joyful church, with peace-filled loving followers that hold to the faith; hold to Jesus’ message and His desire as handed down through His bride the Holy Catholic Church. The joyful attitude, the peace-filled feelings is the different music, but what are the words that are the same? Today’s readings give us great insight to this question.
Behind today’s readings – all three – there is a common reality; a common theme. It is a reality that enables us to proclaim right after this homily in the Creed: ‘I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church’. Unity and universality – one and catholic. In the first reading God says through Isaiah: ‘It is too little, the Lord says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel. I will make you a light to the nations that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth.’ St. Paul’s introduction in his letter to Corinthians makes it clear to those who are reading it, that his mission is everywhere. God desires mankind to be one, to be holy, to be universal and to go out and preach this to everyone, everywhere.
But again, just what is this reality that we proclaim? What are these words that haven’t changed?
In truth, many of us have lost sight of this reality, this central foundation on which all of our vocations as Christians is built on. We haven’t wandered from this core, but we are sometimes lost in the issues of the day and the defense of our faith which, sadly is needed, to recognize it. It is the core that makes real Isaiah’s words: ‘The Lord said to me: You are my servant…through whom I show my glory.’ It is the core that brings together all people of Christian faith. The one core declaration that doesn’t vary in any Christian denomination. The one core message that brings joy to those whose heart hear it and clarity to those who minds accept it. It is the great pronouncement. It is why I am up here; it is why you are here.
‘I come to proclaim Christ crucified and risen.’
In today’s gospel John the Baptist said: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.’ With him all Christians join in chorus. Pope Francis wants joy in the message of Catholics and that joy radiates from the solid reality of Christ crucified and risen. How can we not be joyful knowing that our God climbed onto the cross for each of us? How can we not be filled with peace (though the chaos of the world swirls around us) knowing that Christ rose from the dead and waits for us? But, maybe most importantly, knowing all this, being filled with the joy this proclamation brings, how can we not go out and proclaim to the world Christ crucified and risen? It is our calling, our destiny, our vocation. It is the hermeneutic, the key, that unlocks the wholeness of our reasoning, it is the unifying force in our faith.
So, when we go and witness to the faith. When we answer questions about why the Church does or doesn’t do one thing or another; when we take to the streets to witness to the Gospel of life at Abortion Mills and throughout the nation, as millions will in a few days; when we offer our ideas of what marriage is about; when we publically refuse to follow ill-thought laws and regulations; when our faith is challenged in any way we need to start with the one core – the joyful news of Christ crucified and risen. When we start with this message we start with Love and then our faith and Church makes sense to the hearts of those listening. Our words will be heard and they will have affect; maybe not immediately but sometime – words heard can’t be unheard, joy shared is never forgotten.
Brothers and sisters, as we start with this era of new evangelization that was desired by Blessed Pope John the Great and taken up by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis let each of us move forward to the joyful music that comes from those same eternal words: the proclamation of Christ crucified and risen!