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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fr. Barron on World Youth Day and the Church's Mission...

Up close and personal...
While many in the international press focused on off-the-cuff remarks by Pope Francis after his first papal trip last week, where he said it is not up to him to judge homosexuals, as if this was a radical departure from Church teachings, which all anyone has to do is look up the writings on the subject by the last two popes (not to mention the Catechism of the Catholic Church!), as any good journalist covering the pope should do, the real story at Rio de Janeiro's World Youth Day was Francis' message of hope, God's mercy and his call to Catholic youth to set the world ablaze with their faith, which received a fervent and enthusiastic response from his audiences, that, according to Brazilian officials numbered 3.2 million in one Mass at Copacabana Beach alone.

Yet, as Fr. Robert Barron notes in his latest commentary, it wasn't Pope Francis that the millions of young Catholics were reacting to.  Just as they reacted to Bl. Pope John Paul and to Pope Benedict XVI in previous World Youth Days, they were responding to what Pope Francis represents; the papacy itself, the Holy See, the successor of St. Peter and the authority that the institution demands.

In fact, with all due respect, Fr. Barron says, nothing Pope Francis said was actually novel.  Much of his message, just like the man, is seeped in the underlining theme of the Second Vatican Council, where the bishops called for the Church to turn outside itself and focus on its missionary purpose to proclaim the Gospel and reach out to the poor, marginalized, weak and afflicted; something it has always done but needs to be reminded of and reemphasized from time to time (two thousand years is a long time!).

Showing God's love...
In that regard, the Holy Father urged the young faithful to stir things up, to get busy and not to stay behind the walls of the Church, their parishes or institutions.  He told them to get beyond themselves and bring Christ to the world; to transform the world by engaging the culture and becoming the best examples of Catholic husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, writers, politicians, professionals, laborers or whatever role they may find themselves in life and to do it bravely, boldly and without fear.

Furthermore, Francis proved his own courage and willingness to go out of his own comfort level to show God's love to the most needy by visiting the poorest and highest crime ravaged neighborhoods in Rio, despite concerns over his safety.  It is something that has already marked his short tenure as the Bishop of Rome, where he has continuously broken protocol to be closer to the faithful, kissing and blessing kids, elderly and handicapped and riding in a more open pope mobile.

In reality, as Fr. Barron's indicates, this has been the ever-ending mission of the Church since Christ commanded His Apostles to make disciples of all nations.

Therefore, despite the media frenzy prompted by a reporter's question about homosexual priests, who are living a celibate life in the Church, and answering, "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?," the true heart of Pope Francis' message in Rio is that we are all accountable for one another and, as such, need to get outside ourselves to bring the joy of Christ to the world with love, dignity and compassion...
 

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