Eye on Francis for January 2016

“The more we have trust in God and in His providence, the more wealthy we are in spirit and the more we are open to give, knowing that the more you give the more you receive. In reality, it is useless to open all the Holy Doors of all the basilicas of the world if the door of our heart of is closed to love, if our hands are closed to giving, if our homes are closed to accommodating”

Pope Francis
Presentation of Christmas greetings and Discourse to the Roman Curia
December 21, 2015

To me, the above statement is THE statement of the Jubilee Year of Mercy…so far. After all, Francis is the “Pope of Surprises” so we could hear something even more stunning in the months to come. But for now, let’s take a look at his words and see what they mean for our lives.

What does it mean to trust in God’s providence? I think, first of all, it means being grateful every day for all that has come our way, the good and the bad, and trusting that even in the bad, God can and does do some really amazing things. The center point of our faith is a tortured and bleeding body nailed to a cross, the most infamous means of capital punishment in the Roman Empire, and something amazing came out of that experience. It means really believing that we do receive that wealth of spirit, “pressed down, full and overflowing, will be poured into your lap” (Lk 6:38). That “measure poured into your lap” really is there every day. We need to stop a moment from the hectic pace of our lives, just a brief moment, every day, look for it and be thankful.

That is the kind of love Francis is talking about. That is what the Jubilee Year of Mercy is all about. His image of the “door of our heart” is one he frequently uses. In fact, he makes reference to the heart a lot. “Closed hearts” are in those so set in their ways, so obstinate to seeing anything beyond the end of their noses, seeing any other opinion that Francis recently stated their obstinacy is a form of idolatry! They worship their own thoughts, ideas and opinions so much that they idolize them. Not much mercy can get into or out of a closed heart. A closed heart can’t see God’s love and mercy in front of it if it came up and poked it a good one.

Mercy is a word Francis uses almost every chance he can get. It is his “brand” and he makes sure that brand is front and center in all he says and, more importantly, what he does. He also talks about “large, large open hearts”. People who have these large hearts don’t talk about their own ideas and thoughts. In fact, they are doing things more than talking. Their hearts are like the open Holy Doors in a basilica. People come and go through Holy Doors in crossing the threshold of a large, large open heart. In doing so they receive that Mercy that Francis talks about.

In this upcoming year, “it will do us good”, another thing PF says a lot, to look to our hearts. Are they open or closed? Do we idolize our own thoughts and opinions to the point we are committing the sin of idolatry in our obstinacy? Does our closed heart not see God’s love and mercy giving it a good poke to open it up? Does our closed heart refuse to see the needs of the many people around us who need a “Holy Door of Mercy” in a large, large open heart to walk across so they can experience God’s mercy? Are our parishes ones with “a closed heart”? How about your neighborhood? Would you describe it as one with an open heart? The kind of mercy Papa Francesco talks about isn’t something hard to obtain or to give. It just requires an open heart….and even maybe a little “open heart surgery” to cut out the obstinacy of our own need to be always right. God’s mercy can’t get into your heart if it is full of its own fixed ideas, ones that we have cemented into place long ago to the point they are now meaningless. Maybe this Jubilee Year of Mercy is more about doing some open heart surgery than just passively waiting for God’s mercy to come along. And, oh, by the way, God’s mercy doesn’t “come along” unless we are carrying it in our hands. Watch any video clip of Pope Francis out among people, especially those he calls “marginalized”, to see what the mercy of a truly open heart, carried in open hands, looks like.

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