Guest blogger: love of my life, Jay!
Over the last couple of months, I’ve had conversations with non-Catholic buddies and I’m shocked at how many of them are closely listening to and watching this Pope.
Mike, a good Jewish friend of mine, has followed Pope Francis from day one . . . and loves not only what he is saying, but how his actions are consistent with those words.
I have a Methodist friend, Bobby, who reads whatever he can on this Pope. He said that in the past, his view of many Catholics encountered has been that many of them seem more elitist, cold, and judgmental than other Christian faiths. He said this Pope is the first Pope, as far as he could see, was leading and living Christ’s total message by example. He is quick to point out that for years other Popes may have communicated that message directly to the Catholic membership, but this Pope seems to be communicating and welcoming to all people around the world back to a union with Christ.
Recently, a Christian minister in the Rotary Club to which I belong shared that he loves seeing Pope Francis reaching out not only to people of all faiths, inviting them back to a real and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, but noted that he especially seems to be calling Catholics who have fallen away or been rejected back to the church. He went on to share that he did a survey and 40% of the membership in his Methodist church today were previously Catholics. Not 5% . . . not 10% . . . but 40%! He said he loved having them but knew in his heart many were still continuing Catholic tradition while in his church. He said what was sad is there was so much hurt that had been done over the years by humans in the local Catholic Church leaderships and was quick to point out that he did not believe it was due to Catholic tradition or Christ’s Command. He said he believes that this Pope is calling those Catholics home and the Pope’s words and actions are a great start. This minister said he wants to see this group of hurting people healed and believes many will return to the Catholic tradition if truly accepted back. He stated that the success of the Catholic Church will be determined by how well the local church leaderships live and emulate this message. Just like any other church or organization, he cautioned that there will be many “sacred cows," power struggles, and human egos deeply entrenched with their own goals and desires and will need to be overcome.
Jesus did not discriminate. Jesus did not judge those coming to listen to His message. Jesus was not an elitist. Jesus lived and backed His message of forgiveness by His actions. Our Faith is entering a new season with huge potential to bring many souls back to Jesus. Jesus mentored what it looked like to be an invitation when He encountered Mathew in today’s Gospel (Matthew 9:9-13):
As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
In the booklet Heaven Speaks to Victims of Clerical Abuse, St. John the Apostle illustrates these points further:
"Heaven is filled with repentant sinners so if you repent, you will fit right in with us in that way, also. None of us judges. We leave that for Jesus. You do the same. Confess your sins and step away from the patterns that are hurting you. Come back to Jesus now in all trust. You are welcomed and cherished. Only good things will result in a decision for your God. Close your eyes and know that the forgiving eyes of Jesus Christ rest upon you. There is nothing to fear. He understands everything."
Lay apostles, what is being asked of us is clear and simple. Jesus is asking us to use any and all of our talents to invite people back to Him. When? The time is now!
He shares in the messages that the end of time is fast approaching. The world is not stamped with an expiration date and none of us come with one either. No one knows how much time we have left or how much time the world has . . . but we do know Jesus is asking us to act boldly . . . now!
Lord, thank you for giving me the great blessing of your ceaseless love. Thank you for the choice to say “yes” to your invitation. Thank you for the ability for second, third, and fourth chances. Thank you for giving us the love you choose to give us and not what we necessarily deserve. Help us to be the invitation locally . . . in our families . . . in our churches . . . in our communities . . . of people coming back to live a joyous life with You!
In gratitude and humility,