Saturday, May 25, 2013

Here's What Happens When You Hire a Jesuit to Be Pope

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”  “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.

Mark 9:38-40

Pope Francis' homily on this scripture given on May 22, 2013:   
They [the disciples] complain, "If he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good." And Jesus corrects them: "Do not hinder him, he says, let him do good."   [The disciples] were a little intolerant... [convinced that] those who do not have the truth, cannot do good. . . .  This was wrong . . . Jesus broadens the horizon.  The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation.
The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. "But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good." Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him. Instead, this "closing off" that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God. That we can kill in the name of God. And that, simply, is blasphemy. To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy.
Instead, the Lord has created us in His image and likeness, and has given us this commandment in the depths of our heart: do good and do not do evil.
The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! "Father, the atheists?" Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. "But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!" But do good: we will meet one another there.
Text from page of the Vatican Radio website

Pope at Mass: Culture of encounter is the foundation of peace


Big Myk said...

This notion that people cannot do good if they have beliefs different than yours is not limited to Catholics. Atheists think believers cannot do good. Christians think Muslims cannot do good. Liberals think conservatives cannot do good. Conservatives think the same of liberals. In fact, the fuel that feeds the culture wars in this country is the belief that those on the other side, because of their flawed views, cannot do good.

The fact is that anyone who pays even the slightest attention to the world knows this belief itself is a fantasy generated by one’s own sense of self-importance. I think Pope Francis is taking aim at the same thing that David Foster Wallace was talking about in his Kenyon College commencement speech (which Jim posted but was then untimely ripped from our blog by the copyright police): the arrogance of the “blind certainty, a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn't even know he's locked up.” Francis actually addresses the mind in which the arrogance has reached a higher level: where, not only are people who disagree with you stupid, but they are also evil.

It’s also interesting that Francis’ way of moving beyond the arrogance – getting out of the default settings – is the same as Wallace’s. In fact, the language is so similar that you wonder if they weren’t collaborating. Francis: “If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much.” Wallace puts it this way, “The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, "Yeah, this should definitely be in 3D."

No, wait, he didn’t say that. What he said was this, "[T]he test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."

I just wrote a series of posts in which very point I was trying to make was that belief, or at least perception, affects how we behave. Now, it seems that, at least this much is also true: what people believe does not keep them from doing good, and may have very little to do with their level of care for other people. As Francis says, the desire to do good written in our hearts; it doesn't come from our heads. There may be some grand narrative that can hold both these competing ideas, but, here at the edge of the lazy summer season, it’s not coming to me. The best I can do is quote, one more time, perhaps the wisest man of recent human history: “How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.” Niels Bohr

James R said...

This is my kind of comment. The substance of the comment is mirrored in the act of making it. Huzzah!

Who did say "Yeah, this should definitely be in 3D."?

Big Myk said...

Actually, I stole the line from another recent commencement speech, this one by Jon Lovett given at Pitzer College: Life Lessons in Fighting the Culture of Bullshit. It's another speech worth listening to.

Peter H of Lebo said...

Explanatory Note on the Meaning of 'Salvation' in Francis's Daily Homily of May 22", the day after the pope's address.

"Pope Francis has no intention of provoking a theological debate on the nature of salvation through his homily"... "they cannot be saved who, knowing the church as founded by Christ and necessary for salvation, would refuse to enter her or remain in her".

This just in Church hasn't changed its position. I was really fearing that I would have to return all the marshmallows I was gathering for the never ending brimstone cookout.

James R said...

I like this more and more. I believe you have hit upon a very useful and under-examined truth. What we believe certainly influences how we behave. We act differently when be believe we are winners or ignored or married.

What we believe also, certainly, doesn't keep us from doing good. As Joseph Biden said, "Never question another's motive. Question their judgement, but not their motive."