MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on what we make of Pope Francis and his style. Where does he get this stuff? How does it change our lives and how we treat those around us? Listen to this podcast of his reflection on the readings for the 10th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Please read Luke 7:11-17. #WidowsSonRaised #Luke7 #ServantLeader #Sermons #Homilies
What to Do with Francis: A Reflection on Luke 7:11-17
Jesus is a Lord of compassion, action and power.
I am really liking Pope Francis. What I like about Pope Francis is that he is not a pontificating artifact. Pope Francis is a leader of the Church who doesn’t sit in the trappings of power and authority only to tell us from his wealthy perch to do good. He himself does good.
Working in a Catholic and Benedictine University in the midst of a post-modern generation, I feel like I am swirling on a raft in a cesspool of cynicism, skepticism and narcissism. Anymore, people look at others with their own self interest on their sleeve wondering what the other person is going to do to advance their own self interest. Most people approach me with the attitude, “How are you going to use me to get what you want?”
I was walking to my car through the parking lot of a strip mall the other day. I saw a woman walking toward me and I said, “Hello. Have a great day!” She moved her body back like I had entered her personal space, although I was about thirty feet away. She turned her head so as to look at me out of her right eye and “hmmphed” me. Seeing that she was a somewhat attractive woman, I be she probably thought that I was only saying hello to her because I wanted to use her beauty for my own sick satisfaction. That happens a lot these days: a genuine “hello” is taken as something else.
In the midst of this world that thinks we are all just trying to use each other and advance our own cause, there stands Francis. No mozetta, the shoulder length cape lined with fur, for Francis. No gold cross, but the simple silver “Good Shepherd” cross , for Francis. No washing of the feet of the princes of the Church on Holy Thursday, but instead the feet of juvenile criminals, for Francis. No tiara, just a white zucchetto (skullcap), for Francis. No hoops to jump through for couples to get married, just a sincerity of finding a way to have them married, for Francis. No being served, just serving others, for Francis.
What are we to do with Papa Francis? Who knows, the people, the tax collectors and sinners just might come to Church, for Francis! Who knows, the people marginalized by a goofy priest here, a sex scandal there, might just come back to the Church because of the servant leadership of Francis! We might even be asking ourselves after 1700 years of Pope as King of country where Pope Francis gets this compassion and servant leader stuff. If we did, then today’s Gospel has the answer.
In our story from the Gospel of Luke, we have a woman widow who loses her son and the funeral procession is leaving the city as Jesus is entering it. This is a devastating blow for a widow. The son is probably the only means of support for a widow. Women were very dependent upon men in the Palestine of Jesus’ day. The death of the son without a husband around almost assuredly would have thrown the woman into poverty, begging and dependency upon her community. So, on top of the loss of her son, when a mother ought never be attending the funeral of her son, she has the prospects of abject poverty to look forward to after burying her boy. In the midst of this sorrow, Jesus does not send money. Jesus does not send a disciple to comfort her. Jesus does not make the funeral procession move aside because he is a King of kings. Jesus does use his authority and power. He uses his authority and power for the people, the lowly widow and to raise the dead.
It says in the passage that Jesus “had compassion on the widow”. The word for compassion has many derivatives. They all come from a word that means “from the insides of the body.” In other words, “from the gut.” So, here the Lord of the universe is moved to have a visceral feeling of sorrow and sympathy for an insignificant woman who is on the verge of being poor.
In response to his compassion, Jesus takes action. He uses his power to raise the young man from the dead. He doesn’t send someone else. He does it himself. He touches an unclean body, heals it and gives the son back to the mother who is grieving. Jesus is a Lord of compassion, power and action. He doesn’t just sit on the sidelines. He doesn’t look down on others. He doesn’t use his power for his own glorification. He uses the power of the God of the Universe to heal the sick, tend to the poor and raise people from the dead.
Jesus not only serves as a reminder of Elijah in the Old Testament reading for the day, but he also surpasses Elijah. He is approached by the disciples of John the Baptist after this passage and he tells them to say to John: “the dead are raised.” It is a sign to John that the true Lord has come. How do we know it is the true Lord? We know because the authority and power are used to help the poor and outcast, not the rich and comfortable.
So, that brings us back to Francis, Papa Francis, our dear Pope. What leader of a multinational corporation calls the newspaper stand himself to cancel his subscription? That is the job of the assistant, right? No!
The consideration to cancel the paper is striking in the first place. The fact that Francis even thought of calling the newspaper stand owner in the first place shows that there is a focus outside the self of the man who would not wear the mozetta, the tiara, the red leather shoes or the gold papal cross. Calling newspaper stand owners, washing the feet of juvenal criminals, living in a two room apartment and asking us to bless him before he blesses us, these are the works of a man who is leading through service.
Francis’ example is Jesus. Jesus served the poor. Jesus had compassion on the outcast widow. Jesus is the Lord of lords who condescends to let his own creation whip him, beat him, spit on him and nail him to a Cross. Why? Why does he condescend to his own creation and let his own creation abuse him? So he can save the very people who whip, spit, beat and nail.
Usually, I ask you to take an action based upon your faith and the message of the day. Today, I ask you to change your perspective. Today, I ask you to change your way of thinking. I ask you to turn to others, maybe even people who are rude to you in the parking lot and have compassion. What could have happened in the day of the person who is miserable in front of you? What cross could they be carrying in the secrecy of their lives? What cloak of pretense must they wear to hide the pain that lingers in wounds of their hearts? What humiliation must they bear day in and day out that they cannot reveal lest we think poorly of them and not treat them well? What shattered dream must they face on a daily basis which suffocates the joy their hearts could feel at being set free by your acknowledgment?
In whatever power and authority you have, take the example of Francis. No. Take the example of Pope Francis’ example, Jesus and have compassion, use your power and do something to alleviate the needs of the people right in front of you. Amen? Amen.
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