As we walk through the fifth week of Lent toward Holy Week, we walk with the new leader of the Catholic Church: Pope Francis. In choosing the name ‘Francis’, as a Jesuit, and as a Latin American Cardinal, he is a pope of ‘firsts’. At Mass last week he told the regally vested cardinals, “When we walk without the cross, when we build without the cross and when we proclaim Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly.” At his installation Mass yesterday, on the Feast of Saint Joseph, we heard him share regarding his office: “He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked St. Joseph,” and “He must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison.”
If this first week of messages is any indicator, Pope Francis is providing us with his definition of discipleship: The Centrality of the Cross and the Corporal Works of Mercy from Matthew 25. When I place these two messages side by side I find their intersection in a Cross of Mercy. Jesus walked with this Cross each day of his life. In every encounter he took a further step toward the cup offered to him on the cross, extending God’s mercy to the alienated and calling for justice, sacrifice, and conversion from the comfortable. In the final days of Lent, what if we were to take on this definition as an examination of conscience? I began this process during my morning prayer today using the two question below as a guide:
When have I chosen to walk, build or proclaim Christ without the cross?
When have I failed to offer mercy to someone in need?
- A simple coat of arms for a man of simplicity. (1catholicsalmon.com)
- Pope Francis is a man of deep prayer and profound concern for the poor (rcspiritualdirection.com)