Monday, December 16, 2013

Taking Francis seriously, paragraph #9: The dangers of sentimentality

I'm going to quote this one in full. Pope Francis makes a claim and then quotes Saint Paul to back up that claim. The question I want to ask is, "Does Paul actually backs up Francis here?"
Goodness always tends to spread. Every authentic experience of truth and goodness seeks by its very nature to grow within us, and any person who has experienced a profound liberation becomes more sensitive to the needs of others. As it expands, goodness takes root and develops. If we wish to lead a dignified and fulfilling life, we have to reach out to others and seek their good. In this regard, several sayings of Saint Paul will not surprise us: “The love of Christ urges us on” (2 Cor 5:14); “Woe to me if I do not proclaim the Gospel” (1 Cor 9:16). 
If we want to help Francis—and why not?—we should say that "every authentic experience of truth and goodness"and that any experience of "profound liberation" is really an experience of Christ's love for us. And that, no doubt, is what he does mean.

On the other hand, it is easy to see, when we read stuff like this, why Francis is so consistently "misunderstood" by the press. I put "misunderstood" in scare quotes here not because I think that the press actually does understand him. My concern is that if you are Francis and the press keeps misunderstanding you, there is point where you should ask yourself whether it might not be a good idea to start expressing yourself more carefully.

And that should worry us because the press is in the business of selling us cheap sentiment and Popes should not be. So, I ask myself why any sane person with even a modicum of life experience should accept the claim that "Goodness always tend to spread"? Really?

Here is a quote from Paul that really shook me the first time I read it:
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is the church, of which I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints. (Colossians 1: 24)
It never shocked me to read that in Paul. I must have always let it slide by. But it really shook me when someone took it and turned it into a prayer. This is the Psalm prayer that follows  Psalm 116 (verses 10-19) in Evening prayer 1 from last Saturday night (Week III of the Psalter).
Father, precious in your sight is the death of the saints, but precious above all is the love with which Christ suffered to redeem us. In this life we fill up in our own flesh what is still lacking in the sufferings of Christ; accept this as our sacrifice of praise, and we shall even now taste the joy of the new Jerusalem.
To fill up or complete what is still lacking in the sufferings of Christ???? However we explain that to ourselves, we shouldn't try to explain it away.

Here is how the excepted section from Psalm 116 that precedes that prayer begins:
I trusted, even when I said:
"I am sorely afflicted,"
and when I said in my alarm:
"No man can be trusted."
There is a lot of ocean between that and "Goodness always tends to spread."

I don't where to go from here—other than to keep reading.

No comments:

Post a Comment