Column: Modernizing the eternal?


Last week in this space we commented on the thunderous applause Pope Francis received in New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

The thought here was that in that moment, the Pope appeared at best wistful if not a tad embarrassed about the divine tenor of that applause directed at him which he knew properly should be directed at Jesus Christ.

The Pope smiled politely; he didn’t take a bow or pump his fist.

One thing I believe about the Pope is that he is no hypocrite.  In general I think that helps explain the breadth of especially the secular fascination with any Pope.      What’s the number one complaint against Christians?  “They’re hypocrites.”  Folks may not understand Christianity, scripture, Jesus, Trinitarian relationship or what the Pope stands for, but they appreciate his commitment.

Three cheers for not being a hypocrite.

Catholics of course cheer the head of their Church.  They see the successor of St. Peter, the Vicar of Christ, and the Holy embodiment of Rome’s long Christian tradition.  Whether or not one is in theological, salvational, doctrinal big-picture agreement with the Catholic Church, all of us recognize the Pope, globally, as a religious leader.  Maybe he’s not “my” or “your” particular leader, but a leader nonetheless, and a leader by non-fraudulent personal example.

What seems to be particularly endearing to the masses about this Pope is that observers of his papacy have interpreted in his various political comments a tendency toward the modern.  Critics will call him too much of a socialist, or too much of a dabbler in science, or out of his proper depth in commenting on global political pressures, cultural trends and economic disparities, but I see no cracks in the Pope’s key Christian commitments of loving others, spreading the Gospel, and helping the poor.

Folks should not imagine that their personal political and cultural agendas will imprint this Pope’s mission.  He is not in the office of “modernization” of anything.  He is in the office of relaying the eternal message of Jesus Christ.  It is a message of God’s truth, love, hope and faithfulness.  It is a mysterious message that will never change.  It is a comforting message in which we can rest.

It is a message this Pope thoroughly “gets.”

It is a message, sadly, many people completely miss.

So, about that thunderous applause.  From the sincerely faithful?  Praise God!   But from the politically and culturally agenda-driven modernizers who hope this “new” Pope will declare it “OK” and somehow righteous to “conform to the world” today in pursuit of earthly happiness and morally vacant personal desires?

Better get with God’s eternal message in Christ.  Today will soon be over.

Walters ( cites “everlasting to everlasting.”