I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong for a pope to use harsh and judgmental language when appropriate. Some of our popes did, at times, use excoriating language and even insults against the enemies of God, as did Our Lord Himself. All to the good. It’s a matter of prudence and, of course, truth. It’s very important that insults be properly directed and oriented toward the ultimate good of all. They should also be used sparingly.
But we are not accustomed to popes speaking so harshly in this Age of Tolerance and Non-Judgmentalism! I don’t remember John Paul II or Benedict XVI using harsh or insulting language, even when it came to the enemies of the Faith. However, Pope Francis has already developed quite a reputation for insulting those with whom he disagrees, to the point where The Pope Francis Little Book of Insults needs daily updating.
Christians who are allergic to preachers always have a reason to criticise but the truth is that they are afraid to open up to the Holy Spirit. And this is how they become sad, Pope Francis said at this morning’s mass in St. Martha’s House, Vatican Radio reports.
In the Gospel passage chosen as today’s reading, Jesus “compares the generation of his time to those children who are always unhappy, who do not know how to play happily, who always refuse the invitation of others: if they play, they do not dance, and if they sing its a song of lament, they do not cry … nothing satisfies them.” Pope Francis explained that those people “were not open to the Word of God.” They refuse “the messenger, not the message.” They reject John the Baptist, who “neither eats nor drink,” saying he is “a man possessed”. They reject Jesus because they say he “it is a glutton, a drunkard, a friend of publicans and sinners.”
They always have a reason to criticize the preacher: “The people of that time preferred to take refuge in a more elaborate religion: in the moral precepts, such as the group of Pharisees; in political compromise, as the Sadducees; in social revolution, as the zealots; in agnostic spirituality, such as Essenes. They were [happy] with their clean, well-polished system. The preacher, however, was not [so pleased]. Jesus reminded them: ‘Your fathers did the same with the prophets.’ The people of God have a certain allergy to the preachers of the Word: they persecuted the prophets, [even] killed them.”
“These people claimed to accept the truth of revelation, “but the preacher, preaching, no. They prefer a life caged in their precepts, in their compromises, in their revolutionary plans or in their [disembodied] spirituality,” Francis said.
“These Christians are closed, they are trapped, sad … these Christians are not free,” Francis said. “Why? Because they are afraid of the freedom of the Holy Spirit, which comes through preaching. This, then, is the scandal of preaching, of which St. Paul spoke: the scandal of preaching that ends in the scandal of the Cross. That God should speak to us through men with limits, sinful men, scandalizes: and what scandalizes even more is that that God should speak to us and save us by way of a man who says he is the Son of God but ends [his life] as a criminal. That scandalizes.”
“These sad Christians,” Pope Francis said, “do not believe in the Holy Spirit, do not believe in the freedom that comes from preaching, which admonishes you, teaches you – slaps you, as well – but it is the very freedom that makes the Church grow.”
“Seeing these children who are afraid to dance, to cry, [who are] afraid of everything, who ask for certainty in all things, I think of these sad Christians, who always criticize the preachers of the Truth, because they are afraid to open the door to the Holy Spirit. Francis concluded the mass by inviting those present to pray “for them, and pray also for ourselves, that we do not become sad Christians, cutting off the freedom of the Holy Spirit to come to us through the scandal of preaching.”
Now then, don’t you feel inspired?