It Really Is That Simple
Here’s a story.
Josh and Zach weren’t friends, but they each knew who the other was. Both were relatively powerful guys—Zach was a rich and successful businessman, while Josh was in charge of a popular new view on the world that was sweeping the nation at the time. Josh was well liked among most regular folk, and those who didn’t know what to think about him were at least amazed at how boldly he went about his business. Zach, on the other hand, was one of the more despised individuals in the town, and was known as a cold and heartless swindler who took advantage of others.
One day, Josh and Zach’s paths crossed. Josh was coming through the area and had attracted a crowd, so much so that Zach, who was short in stature, had to climb a tree to get a glimpse of the guy he had heard so much about. When Josh saw Zach up in the tree, he took the opportunity to ask if they could talk over dinner at Zach’s house. The people who come to see Josh were upset that, of all the people in the crowd, he had chosen to dine with the most despised among them, and more than anything they were disappointed that Josh had chosen a man who, to them, wasn’t worthy of spending time with a man of Josh’s reputation.
If you haven’t figured it out, Josh and Zach weren’t the real names of the two guys. Rather, they’re shortened versions of Jesus and Zacchaeus from the story found in the first part of Chapter 19 in Luke’s gospel, and they tell a story of Jesus accepting one of the most hated people in the town because he had come to “seek and save what was lost”.
Now, I’m not trying to give a Bible lesson here. The reason I’m bringing this up is because of an article written a couple days ago on FoxNews.com that I thought at least deserved a smidgen of a response. Yes, I fully realize the guy will probably never read what I, a person with an upstart blog with few readers, think of what he wrote, but still.
The blog in question positioned Pope Francis as “the Catholic Church’s Obama” and boldly claimed in its opening paragraph that he would “prove a disaster” for the church just as our president has been disappointing to America.
I know I covered exactly this in my last post — that the mainstream media oversimplifies and misunderstands the key goals of Pope Francis and the Catholic Church in general — but the author, Adam Shaw, swung so hard at this topic and whiffed so badly he spun himself around and clocked the catcher in the back of the head with his proverbial bat.
For starters, the pope is trying to please no one. Francis, like Jesus in the story above, is only interested in spreading the message of the Gospel out of love for every human being with whom he comes into contact. No more, no less. How that sits with people like Shaw isn’t his problem (or the Church’s problem, for that matter).
The pope is emulating Jesus’ attitude toward Zacchaeus when he reaches out to those beyond the confines of the cathedral walls, despite Shaw’s perception of it as “rubbing the egos of Church-hating left wingers”. In fact, the crowd was probably accusing Jesus of “rubbing the egos” of the rich and famous when the story happened too.
What would’ve happened if Jesus constantly appealed to his own followers only and shut everyone else out? I can say this much: we wouldn’t have a Catholic Church to argue about in 2013, that’s for sure.
The reason it’s important to evangelize to those outside the Church now is the same reason it was important for Jesus to do back then; no one would have ever followed Jesus had he never asked them to follow him, or reached out and given them the chance.
Shaw acknowledges that Pope Francis is bringing people back to the Church, but states that a study shows less people identifying as Catholic. Chalking that up as current Catholics being alienated through his tending for those outside his flock is flawed logic at the very least.
Did followers of Jesus get offended when he showed love to those who weren’t following him yet? No! In fact, Jesus told them to do just as he did, and those who didn’t like it were free to leave (and they did). The pope is leading, not ordering or dictating, for a reason. Misinterpreting his intentions through a refusal to undertake due diligence isn’t an excuse.
What’s funny in all this is that, despite their constant oversimplification, the media misses the forest for the trees and vastly overCOMPLICATES the pope’s intentions. Shaw and so many others attempt to point out how Francis is liberal, conservative, socialist, communist, an ideologue, a bad economist, an undoer of the work of JPII and Benedict, blah blah blah. What they’re missing is that Pope Francis is simply one thing: Catholic.
If everyone in the media would drop their self-imposed monikers and apply the one Francis himself is using, and furthermore learn more about what that means, it would be so much easier to not only understand his intentions, but also to spread them to the millions reading their product each day.