God's Fool

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An op-ed in a recent NY Times comments on Pope Francis:  “Whether he’s cleaning the feet of the homeless, dialing up strangers for late-night chats or convincing a self-described atheist like Raul Castro to give a second look at the Catholic Church, the pope who took the name of a nature-loving pauper is a transformative gust.”


A gust?  No, rather a gentle whirlwind of the Spirit, bent on renewing, not only the Roman Catholic Church, but the face of the earth as well.  Why does this man exert such a strange attractiveness?  Why this undeniable magnetism when truth and folly stand together?  Is it because Pope Francis seems to change all the rules, because he looks in different directions for joy, because he finds love in the most unsuspected places?


Yes, but something more.  He is neither left nor right, conservative nor liberal.  He is radical!   He consistently demonstrates how we can only see things correctly from a disestablished position.  He sees as Jesus did….from the bottom.  Away with pomp and ceremony.  Enough with telling others what they should or should not be doing.  While so many people wait for him to reverse the directives of his predecessor or to disregard the church’s traditions, Francis embraces the poor and exhorts everyone to embrace one another in forgiveness and compassion.


Pope Francis repeatedly exhorts us to get out of our well-appointed offices and comfortable homes and get into the streets to discover the hurts and share the joys of the common folk.  It is there we will discover that our own hearts are hurting and our minds are overburdened with too many worries and not enough joy.  It is that much needed joy that Pope Francis shows us as he mingles with the crowds, hugs the little ones, embraces the poor and marginalized by society.  He simply cannot leave anyone or anything outside the parameters of his love.  His serenity and his “deprecating lightness of being” seem inexorably to attract the whole world.


……except climate science deniers probably best represented by the Koch Brothers funded Heartland Institute whose members recently accused Pope Francis of being “fooled” by so-called experts at the United Nations.  Heartland representatives hurriedly flew to the Vatican in an attempt to infiltrate a press conference during an international summit on climate change at which Ban Ki Moon made a dynamic appeal for a global agreement to address the crisis by the end of the year.  One of the Heartland reps scolded the Pope saying “while he may have great moral authority, he is not an authority on climate science”.


Nonetheless this radiant, joyful and powerful moral authority will soon release a major encyclical in which he will declare that preventing a climate crisis is a moral imperative, and that standing idly by while God’s magnificent creation  is being destroyed is immoral.  This encyclical will challenge the world to choose between the fossil fuel donors and the gift of God’s love for this world.


Like his chosen patron, St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis knows there is power in being a somebody, but there is truth in being a nobody.  He opts for the truth because he is certain from the example of Jesus crucified that the Lord would eventually create power out of truth.  So he chooses weakness instead of strength, vulnerability instead of righteousness, truth instead of practicality, honesty instead of influence.   And all the while he smiles!  What an amazing contrast to our present-day business oriented world which measures success only in terms of profit, power and prestige.


Pope Francis has a lot of reasons to be discouraged.  He sees corruption in the church and in the world.  He calls for reform by his style of life, but his view from the bottom certainly does not become fashionable.  Yet he is a man of deep and abiding joy.  He continues to lift up peoples’ hearts and give them reasons for spiritual joy.  He smiles as he asks all of us to become fools for God!


By Fr. Bert Ebben, OP



Justice Preaching Archive

Just click on a title below to read the article.
- The latest titles are listed first. -

• Justice Bulletin Board •
• A New Year •
• Two Essays on Peace •
• A Call To Respect and Welcome Diversity - A Challenge of Our Faith •
• Addressing White Power and Priviledge •
• An Ethical Reflection on Work... •
• A Re-energized Catholic Church •
• A Renewed Call for Nuclear Disarmament •
• Called to Proclaim and Live With Moral Courage •
• Called To Protect the Poor In Our Economic System •
• Call To Persevere In Praying and Working for Peace •
• Care For the Environment •
• Care for the Earth •
• Caritas in Veritate •
• The Challenge of Discipleship •
• Comprehensive Immigration Reform •
• The Death Penalty Revisited •
• What Is Ecological Economics •
• Eliminating Global Poverty •
• Global Warming... Calling for an Urgent and Ethical Response •
• God's Fool •
• Green Congretations - A Growing Movement •
• More Gun Control •
• Healing the Racial Divide •
• Speaking the Truth in Today's World Takes Courage •
• Justice and Compassion •
• Labor Issues and the Catholic Church •
• Is More Consumer Spending the Answer? •
• Moving from A Culture of Violence to a Culture of Peace •
• Preaching Justice & Moving from Violence to Peace •
• Reaching For the Stars - Brenda Walsh •
• A Call To Reduce Prison Population •
• The Relationship Between Labor And the Catholic Church •
• Sermon On Domestic Violence •
• Sustainability •
• The Death Penalty •
• The New Economy Movement •
• The Role of Ethical Standards... •
• War Is Not the Answer •
• Witnesses To Hope •

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