Lenten Reflection Series: Live in Hope–Easter is Coming!
Fr. Dwight Longenecker was brought up in an Evangelical home in Pennsylvania. He graduated from the fundamentalist Bob Jones University with a degree in Speech and English, and then went to study Theology at Oxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and served as a curate, a school chaplain in Cambridge, and a country parson on the Isle of Wight.
Realizing that he and the Anglican Church were on divergent paths, Fr. Dwight and his family were received into the Catholic Church in 1995. Fr. Longenecker pens a nationally known blog, “Standing On My Head.”
I was not surprised by the interest in the election of the new Holy Father. We saw this in the death and funeral Mass of John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI. You might not like the Catholic Church, but you cannot ignore us. I was struck, however, by the way the media was simply “gushing” over the new Pope. Fr. Longenecker also wrote about the hype surrounding the election of our new Pope Francis and the interest in the Pope’s simplicity and the subject of poverty. He expressed sentiments which I also share. A brief snippet of his thoughts:
There are vast crowds who profess to love the Popes and St. Francis’ simplicity of life. Unfortunately, they have a syrupy idea that the poor are wonderful just because they’re poor. They have this warm-hearted feeling toward St Francis, who preached to the birdies and hugged trees and kissed lepers. This sentimental approach to poverty and ministry to the poor is shallow and naive. It’s the stuff of St Francis statues in the backyard, a kind of 13th century hippie-flower-child as depicted in the 1960’s movie “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” in which a beautiful young Francis dances and tumbles through fields of flowers.
Anyone who works with the poor realizes that this is a very complicated apostolate. People are not noble and good simply because they are poor. And Franciscans are tough, hard-headed and realistic in their ministry. The latte-sipping crowd who think the Pope is “just marvelous” because he doesn’t go in for the limousine or the trappings of the office will become deaf when the Pope suggests that they follow his example and personally change their own lives. They’re all quite happy for the Pope to sell off ALL of the riches of the Catholic Church, but they’re not about to have a garage sale at their homes.
Philadelphia Archbishop Chaput also expressed his opinion concerning the “talking points” expressed in the media during the conclave. “Words like ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ are hopelessly misleading when we speak about Catholic belief. There’s no way of separating love for the poor from love for an unborn child. Defense of the oppressed and marginalized and defense of the family, the nature of marriage and the unborn child spring from exactly the same Catholic commitment to human dignity. There is nothing ‘progressive’ about killing an unborn human child in the womb. And there is nothing redeemably ‘orthodox’ or ‘conservative’ about ignoring the cries of the poor.”
Archbishop Chaput has mentioned that he does not prefer to be in a mode of “maintenance and management” the way he currently finds himself in Philadelphia. He would prefer to focus on “mission and ministry” but for now, that is our situation, and we have to carry this cross. He has been bluntly honest candid with priests in Philadelphia who have expressed the sentiment that “they were not ordained for this.” His explanation: Oh yes you were! You were ordained to preach, to teach and to govern. This falls under governance. You signed up for this the day you went face down on the Cathedral floor.
“The Anchoress” Elizabeth Scalia is ALSO getting a little tired of the hypocrisy, misunderstanding and vincible ignorance concerning Pope Francis’ “simplicity.” She recently posted her thoughts along the same lines. Read what she thinks here:
We’re all in for a rough ride and, as baptized Catholics, we signed up for this. But guess what? So did Jesus. Look at the readings for Palm Sunday:
- Herod had heard about him and had been hoping to see him perform some sign (and was angry at him when he didn’t do what he wanted him to).
- Herod questioned him – at length.
- The chief priests and scribes stood by accusing him harshly.
- The soldiers treated him contemptuously and mocked him.
Jesus does not cooperate with the powers that be in order to accomplish his will. He lets the power of politics play out and the Father even uses that to accomplish his will (notice the reconciliation between Herod and Pilot). The situation is not beyond help. Current events are not beyond hope. People in power are not beyond redemption “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
2 Closing Points:
Simon of Cyrene might have though that he was at the wrong place – at the wrong time. You might feel the same way when, in fact, you might be at the RIGHT place at the RIGHT time. Simon’s two sons (Rufes and Alexander) are also mentioned by name in the Scriptures – specific information which is highly unusual in the Bible unless the scripture writer had a specific purpose for providing such details. Is it possible that Simon (and his “relationship” with Jesus and later the Lord’s followers) made such an impression on the boys that they, too, become such prominent disciples that the Scripture writer felt it was important to mention them by name?
Mary witnessed two great miracles: at the wedding Feast of Cana and at the Cross. “Stabat mater,” she refused to cower, bend, kneel or be crushed by circumstances. With almost defiant faith and confidence in her son, she STOOD as if to say, “I am simply going to just stand here and wait and believe let YOU save the situation.” Does she not personify her uncle Zechariah who said, “In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace”?
Stand tall! Believe. Live in hope. Easter is coming.