Peace, Poverty and a Pope
Pastor’s Monthly Newsletter Article for April, 2013
I am not by any stretch of the imagination a “Vatican Watcher.” I have an appreciation for Roman Catholic faith. I am particularly interested in their worship life. I believe that we Lutherans have much to learn from their appreciation for the Mass, and their attention to liturgical practice. Having not-so-long-ago worshipped in St. Peter’s Basilica and visited the Sistine Chapel, I have a curiosity about what takes place behind the walls in Vatican City. That said, I know very little about how the Vatican operates, and even less about those who influence it today.
Yet I was particularly interested in the papal conclave this past month that elected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina as the 266th Pope. Appointed by Pope John Paul II in 2001, Cardinal Bergoglio has demonstrated a deep and Christ-like love for the people of Argentina, especially those who live in poverty. While many of his predecessors have indulged in the comforts and luxuries of high office, he has preferred to stay close to the people – reportedly taking the bus to his office (instead of the standard chauffeured limousine), and preparing many of his own meals (rather than relying on kitchen staff to do so).
It is hard to tell how much of this is myth and how much is reality (we in the church have a tendency to embellish the stories of our heroes), but if there is truth to these stories, it gives hope that Pope Francis will do his best to chart a new course for the future of the Roman Catholic Church; one that expresses a deep care for and commitment to those who suffer in this world.
Too often Christians (and I include myself in this number) have professed to be followers of Jesus, but have lived as though we are indebted to an earthy prince. Comfortable homes, well-prepared meals and choice seats in the arena have a seductive power that can draw our attention away from the world, and towards ourselves. The excesses of the Vatican (many of which Pope Francis seems to be resisting so far) are easy targets for cynical observers. But upon closer observation, many of us – leaders and followers alike – are able to identify similar patterns in our own living.
I will continue to be interested in this Pope, who seems to march to the beat of a different drummer. I am especially interested to learn about how he navigates the hallowed halls of Vatican City. I am hopeful that the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience that have marked his ministry will shape his papacy in deep and faithful ways. Perhaps he will teach us all about how to live in this world as a servant of Christ, with a heart for all of God’s children. As Jesus once said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (St. Matthew 25:40)
May the faithfulness of Pope Francis honor our Savior, reform the church, inspire the world, and lead us all to a deeper attentiveness to “the least of these” among us.
God’s peace to you all,