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Saturday, March 16, 2013

What a Week it Has Been--The New Pope and a Gospel Reflection

  After a week of hectic travel I am at St. Michael's Church in Crowley, LA, to begin a parish mission.  On Wednesday afternoon I was gathered with the pastor and the parish staff at Jesus, Our Risen Savior, in Spartanburg, SC when the TV showed white smoke emerging from the chimney at the Vatican.  An hour later came the good news, " Gaudium magnum annuncio vobis,Habemus Papam."  The real stunner came a moment later when his name was announced--Franciscus, Francis.  I myself wondered if it might be Francis Xavier since the new pope is a Jesuit, but no, it is indeed Francis of Assisi after whom he is named. I have always sort of joked that the perfect Catholic has a Jesuit mind with a Franciscan heart, and this is what we have in Pope Francis.

   Many are asking about the kind of changes that he might make in terms of several hot button issues.  As understandable as that is I have always felt that a change in the way of doing business in the Church must precede any other change and I believe that this is what we will see with Pope Francis.  His humility and simplicity are already rubbing off on those around him, and in my case are causing me to have a good look at my own life in terms of these qualities and I hope that we might all do that and not just point to the hierarchy and their need for reform, which is certainly there as well.

The Adulterous woman and Jesus
   This leads me to segue into a reflection on this Sunday's Gospel, the well-known story of the woman taken in adultery. (Jn 8:1-11). We all know the story.  The authorities want her stoned according to Jewish law.  Jesus speaks the well known words, "Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone."  He then writes on the ground and the crowd flees.

   What is Jesus doing?  Several things.  First, he is showing that sin is overcome foremost by forgiveness, not punishment, not by throwing stones.  Second, he is confronting the crowd and us to look at our own sins.  Third, while we may be afraid that He will turn and throw stones at us, He forgives us as well.

   And what does this have to do with Pope Francis.  Besides the humility and simplicity that he shows I think he is asking us to stop throwing stones at each other and to work together as one. That was the tone of his opening remarks from the balcony--"Bishop and people together."  We have our differences indeed, and they must be dealt with, but not by name-calling and rancor, but by walking together in the footsteps of Jesus.

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