(Written by Melrose)
With the recent Apostolic Visit of His Holiness, Pope Francis, Catholics were once again put to the hot seat because, implying indirectly, according to some Protestants, we are putting Pope’s Francis’ own words before what the Lord Jesus taught in the Bible.
But was this really the case? Did the Pope thwart the pure message of the gospel and spoke only of his own accord? Are we Catholics guilty of not listening to Jesus alone? Is there something to be guilty about in the first place?
If you would search for the Pope’s homilies you may want to read them more clearly and recognize that he never fails to point to the Gospels and to the Bible in general. In all his homilies and public speeches, he reflected on the words explicitly written in the Sacred Scriptures and never drifted away from the message of hope as proclaimed by our Lord.
During the Mass in Tacloban, the Pope in his homily quoted various passages from the Letter to the Hebrews and he went on to give a deeper reflection and meaning to these passages. Then he consoled the people even more by echoing the scene in Calvary when, before expiring, Jesus left Mary to the care of the beloved disciple. (John 19: 26-27). He emphasized the role of the Blessed Virgin to whose maternal care Jesus entrusted all of his disciples.
When he met with the young people in UST, the Pope presented a challenge to his audience: the challenge to weep just as Jesus did in the Gospels:
“Jesus wept.” (Jn 11:35)
It is interesting to note that the shortest verse in the Bible can generate a strong emotional impact. It’s almost like vividly hearing the Lord as he was crying. The Supreme Pontiff offered a very heartwarming reflection on the shortest verse when he referred to it as a means to comfort the young girl who broke down and cried while telling him her story.
Lastly, during the historical Papal Mass at the Quirino Grandstand, he referred to the Infancy narratives found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke as he told the massive crowds to remember that the image of the Santo Niño-the Holy Child- calls our attention to what our true identity is, that we are all God’s children.
So, see? The Pope never drifted away from the Bible. He constantly pointed to the Word of God. Catholics listening to Pope Francis can be likened to Protestants listening to the reflections and insights of their respective pastors or congregation ministers. The only big difference would be the fact that, authority-wise, the Pope as the Successor of Saint Peter is bequeathed the keys of the kingdom of heaven and the power to bind and loose. (Mt. 16:18-19) and in this case Catholics are listening to a far more licit interpretation of the Holy Writ.
Still the question, why would any non-Catholic be disturbed by the Pope giving his own words of wisdom and reflections on certain scriptural passages when it was comparably done by the Apostles themselves when they were preaching to the early Christians?
“…but, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, ‘Be holy because I [am] holy’.” (1 Pet. 1: 15-16)
Saint Peter was referring to Leviticus 19:2 and also to similar words of Christ,“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt. 5:48)
John the Evangelist:
“But now, Lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing a new commandment but the one we have had from the beginning: let us love one another.” (2 Jn. 1:5)
Remember that this is the commandment from the Lord Jesus during the Last Supper (Jn. 13:34)
Likewise Saint Paul, apostle to the Gentiles who penned most of the letters addressed to particular churches, used his own words to preach the truth about Jesus Christ. He did not develop a separate gospel but from what we can clearly read, he emphasized and highlighted the Lord’s teachings:
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you…” (1Cor. 11:23-24)
Saint Peter even spoke highly of him:
“And consider the patience of our Lord as salvation, as our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, also wrote to you, speaking of these things as he does in all his letters. In them there are some things hard to understand that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction, just as they do the other scriptures.” (2 Pet. 3:15-16)
There we see an admonition. There would really come a time when the message will be distorted by the ignorant and those who would cling to their own interpretations all in the name of their ulterior selfish schemes.
But we Catholics are guaranteed that the teachings heard by the early Christians are the same pure teachings we receive today thanks to our firm and historically-grounded belief in the apostolic succession with Pope Francis as the 265th Successor of Saint Peter having in him and the Catholic Church all the right to interpret the Scriptures and teach (Magisterium) and because the Lord promised us His enduring presence:
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mt. 28: 20)
… and the Holy Spirit’s guidance:
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (Jn. 14:26)
The Pope did what he really is supposed to be doing: to deliver the message from the Lord (cf. 1Cor. 11:23-24) and to see to it that the truth of the Gospel is safeguarded and preached the way it should be preached (cf. Gal. 1:8). Never did he claim to be an angel from heaven or a newly appointed son of God or a fulfillment of some sort of prophecy. In fact, by telling us, “do not focus on me, focus on Jesus”, he is reiterating this passage uttered by the Precursor Saint John, “He must increase, but I must decrease. (Jn.3:30)
“For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Cor 4:5)