It is simply that [Pope] Francis, following the tradition of the name he has taken, has changed, not the essence of the message, but its tone, dialect, and presentation. Francis feels the void into which he must reach — he knows the materialism, nihilism, and skepticism from which he must reclaim men’s minds. Thus, he does not emphasize morality so much as compassion, and he is ready at every moment to mingle acts of mercy with calls for justice. He does not fear paradox. He is capable of writing theology, but he prefers a gospel of encounter. He does not lead with condemnation; he leads with the caress. He affirms neither Right nor Left, neither socialist nor capitalist. He moves through such mental barricades as if they were not even there, declaring openly the hollowness of ideology.”
Our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, instilled a spirit that sought to seek peace through understanding and acceptance, rather than combating for tranquility through aggression and war; justice in mercy and forgiveness rather than retribution in violent reprisal, availability to all rather than opinionated distance from those who do not share the same ideas and values. St. Francis even suffered in silence when the opinions of others had eventually changed the simplicity and brotherhood he had instituted when men began to seek to follow the Gospel Way. As Spiritual Children of St. Francis of Assisi we have a responsibility to follow the example of our Seraphic Father. Paul, the Apostle, and Matthew, the Evangelist, offer us insights upon which to reflect that we might be elements of reform in our society and be true Advocates of Peace and Proclaimers of God’s Love and Life in the Family of Humanity and in our own families, communities … the Church.
Minority calls to be and feel oneself little before God, entrusting oneself totally to his infinite mercy. The prospect of mercy is incomprehensible for all those who do not recognize themselves as “minors,” that is, little ones, needy and sinful before God. The more aware we are of this, the closer we are to salvation; the more we are convinced that we are sinners, the more we are disposed to be saved. It happens thus in the Gospel: The persons who recognize themselves poor before Jesus are saved; instead one who thinks he has no need does not receive salvation, not because it is not offered to him, but because he has not received it. Minority also means to come out of oneself, of one’s schemes and personal views; it means to go beyond the structures — which are also useful if used wisely –, to go beyond habits and securities, to witness concrete closeness to the poor, to the needy, to the marginalized in a genuine attitude of sharing and service.
The thing is, it’s easy to imagine yourself doing great works of mercy. It’s easy to have good intentions. What’s difficult is that follow-through, because God didn’t challenge us to commit to the Corporal Works of Mercy for forty days. God challenges us to commit to a lifestyle—and a lifetime—of mercy. And that’s not easy, because maybe in the end, the Works of Mercy aren’t things that can be completed the way one can finish playing a board game or painting a picture. Each act is not an isolated incident, but a part of a process, akin to sweeping the floor. You have to do it regularly or things begin to get messy. They must become habits without becoming mindless. Ultimately, the Works of Mercy point us toward ways in which we can build God’s reign on earth. There’s no guarantee we get to see how it ends, but I know I certainly won’t make progress if I don’t begin.
Humility is to the spirit what material poverty is to the senses: the great purifier. Humility is the beginning of sanity. We can’t really see – much less love – anyone or anything else when the self is in the way. When we finally, really believe in our own sinfulness and unimportance, many other things become possible: repentance; mercy, patience, forgiveness of others. These virtues are the foundation stones of that other great Christian virtue: justice. No justice is ever possible in a spider’s web of mutual anger, recrimination and hurt pride.
~ Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Ten ways to deepen our relationship with God – Catholic Philly.
How many times do I say, with my actions or with my inattention to prayer, I don’t need you, God, the way the unrepentant criminal did, and yet still expect to be treated like the repentant one? I don’t have time for you, God, but hey, remember me anyway. But the thing is, God does. God remembers me. Every day. Even when I don’t deserve it, and perhaps especially when I don’t deserve it.
As I walked from the breadline on my way to Mass, a man standing by a deli asked if I could spare some change for his breakfast. I was caught off guard and muttered, “Sorry, sir,” and looked away. … It bothered me that I didn’t react more charitably. If he’d been in the breadline, I would have smiled and said hello. And yet right down the street I found myself distancing myself from his reality. It is easy to compartmentalize life. To say: “This is when I deal with homeless people, this is when I feed the hungry, and then I am done.” But at the heart of the Corporal Works of Mercy is making yourself available to those in need, even when it isn’t convenient, even when you don’t expect it.
It’s not easy to determine the best ways to act with kindness and mercy. Of course St. Basil the Great, of the fourth century, saw less grey area. He put it quite simply: “The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.”
The saints are, above all, those who have best learned to tune in to God’s signal: those who by penance and prayer and devotion and constant reliance on God’s mercy have eliminated all of the static from their lives. In life, they were conduits of God’s love, pipelines (to switch metaphors) of vast capacity.
Will Duquette, On Being a Conduit of Love
Pope Francis is inviting us to lead with the proclamation of the Gospel rather than with the pronouncement of moral teachings. This confuses some people on both the left and right side of the spectrum because they think that he is about to change, or is undermining, some of our moral teaching. He is not doing that. What he is doing is saying that if we don’t first proclaim the Gospel message of mercy and love, especially love for the poor, then our moral voice is weakened.
Fr. John Anglin, OFM, A New Vision