Listen to the critics of Pope Francis… and Jesus!

Critics of the Pope

Pope Francis is confusing… weak on enforcing doctrine… and sows discord among believers. Certainly, Pope Francis gets a lot of criticism for the way he is trying to shape the church today.

It is no secret that at present there is a strong group opposing Francis’ church: laypeople, theologians, bishops and even cardinals. They would like him to resign or promptly disappear from the scene while they wait for a new conclave to change the current direction of the church.

They feel he is turning the Church upside down

Let’s listen to the critics of Jesus 

The stories we hear today were told to religious people who thought they knew about God and how God acts.

Those who object to Jesus’ whole ministry complain, He welcomes…”

  • the immoral’ (prostitutes and sinners)
  • the marginalized’ (lepers and sick people)
  • heretics’ (Samaritans and pagans)
  • collaborators’ (publicans and soldiers)
  • ‘the weak’ and ‘the poor’ (who have neither power nor knowledge)

“This man welcomes sinners and even eats with them.” He is turning our religion upside down.

That’s not the way God acts they say… except that is the way God acts!

Listen to Jesus’ response (Luke 15)

He doesn’t argue with them. Rather he paints a picture of how God acts… and has acted for all of our history.

The key to the picture he paints is the one word in this gospel that is often overlooked… UNTIL

He describes the shepherd who is looking for his lost sheep he says he searches until he finds it.

When he describes the woman who is looking for the lost coins he says she searches until she finds them.

When he describes the father of the Prodigal son, he searches until he sees him.

  • Jesus is describing a real search until all is found
  • Jesus is describing no mere glance around the local desert area to see if the lost sheep is visible;
  • Jesus is describing no quick search around the house to see if the coin is nearby, under the table, or on the floor near the door.
  • Jesus is describing a father stands all day yearning and looking for his son… isn’t this a deeper layer of meaning to “I am with you all days until the end of time.”

Catch what Jesus is doing. His stories are painting a word picture of the way God acts, a God who refuses to give up on us.

Isn’t this how God has acted since the time of Adam and Eve.

He describes a God who is 

  • foolish and takes risks on our behalf.
  • generous to a fault in forgiving us and welcomes us home when we are found.
  • wants to have a feast to celebrate because, though we were lost, we were priceless in God’s eyes

The prodigal father did not put his son on probation until he is perfect, until the son proved whether he loved the father. The prodigal father simply loved the son… rejoices and callis his whole household to celebrate.

Celebrating God’s love

Isn’t that what the Eucharist is all about… we, each one of us, who have been lost have been found.

God’s sons and daughters, all of us the forgiven, gathered together around this table to celebrate and feast prepared by a welcoming and gracious God.

Each of us has been lost. None of us is perfect. We are simply loved even if we are not perfect.

Keep in mind that the apostles were far from perfect and would run away even after Jesus washed their feet.

We come to celebrate and gives thanks with a God who searches for us… and when found celebrates.

And thus it has always been…

Remember that you too were once slaves in the land of Egypt, and the LORD, your God, brought you out from there with a strong hand and outstretched arm. That is why the LORD, your God, has commanded you to observe the sabbath day. Dt. 5:15

When God found them, the Israelites were slaves. God reversed their condition and invited them to the table. On one level, then, the Sabbath commandment in Deuteronomy is about remembering the Israelites’ slavery and showing gratitude to God for redeeming them and their descendants from it.

On a deeper level, it is about translating that memory and redemption into treating others with kindness and generosity, especially those who are weak and vulnerable as the Israelites once were.

PS 68 “God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor”… each of us and our brothers and sisters

The Sabbath meal not only celebrated God’s gracious actions on their behalf, but it also reminded them that they were to do for others what had been done for them: free the enslaved; welcome the stranger; care for children and protect the widows.

The challenge today

How will the world come to know that God is merciful and compassionate unless they experience it in our lives?

How will our children and others come to believe and experience God’s free gift of love and kindness, unless they experience it in our lives?

They will know when we each of us do what Jesus asked to do in memory of him… wash one another’s feet as Jesus has washed ours.

They will know when we who are the Body of Christ today do what he tells each of us to love one another… even our enemies. And those who do not look like us or think like us.

Today’s Gospel is about us, you and me… Forgiven and called to forgive as we have been forgiven

Do you understand what I have done for you? Do you really understand? Then do likewise! Be like the God who searches and celebrates. The God who does not give up.

See a slightly longer version of this homily God never gives up searching



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