Gracious and most merciful Creator, You have graced us beyond comprehension. All that we have, even life itself, is a gift from you. And for all that we have received we give you thanks and praise.
Even as we praise you for the mercy and love you have poured into our lives we recognize that there are those around us that are not so blessed. We are forced to admit that our world is not just, that evil abounds, that violence stalks the poor, and that hunger still kills thousands of our family every day.
Our prayer this morning is that each of us who call ourselves followers of your Son might be guided more completely by his love and compassion. Allow us to be touched by the pain and fear of the poor and hungry. Allow us to sense the anger Jesus felt for those who would abuse the weak.
And throughout this week we would ask that you would guide us to those we might demonstrate compassion and mercy in your name. Fill us with the power of your Holy Spirit that we might bring bring peace where there is conflict and grace where the need is the greatest. Grant us the power to serve you by serving those most in need of your love.
Jesus wasn’t crucified for telling his listeners to consider the lilies and how they grow. He was nailed to the cross for pointing to the thieves and saying look how they steal. And the thieves to which he was pointing were the religious leaders who were most loudly proclaiming their religiosity.
Jesus was crucified because he was threatening the established religious order. The religious leaders in Jerusalem encouraged the Roman government to take care of the growing menace Jesus posed to their control of the faithful. Jesus was drawing far too much attention to the disparity between their sanctimonious proclamations and the ugly reality of their lifestyles. He had to be silenced.
The Romans pulled the trigger. But it was the religious leaders that pointed the gun.
All of that is to say that I am praying daily for Pope Francis. He continues to demonstrate true prophetic courage in addressing the critical issues of our day. And there is true danger in that.
The Pope’s humility is real, but so is his call for change. George Weigel, a conservative Catholic, recently wrote that, “Pope Francis is a revolutionary. The revolution he proposes, however, is not a matter of economic or political prescription, but a revolution in the self-understanding of the Catholic Church.”
I disagree. Pope Francis is definitely working to clean out the thieves from the temple and put the Catholic Church back into order. But, he has also demonstrated he is committed to living out the gospel of Jesus Christ, not just mouthing platitudes.
Pope Francis is addressing the economic inequities of our world and he is doing it in a manner that points a finger at those in positions of power. He is truly showing preferential treatment towards the poor, the weak and the dispossessed. Such prophetic faithfulness is powerful. It is also imminently dangerous. It was in Jerusalem. And it certainly is in Rome.