This blog is a step by step review of the controversial homily from Pope Francis dated May 22, 2013.  The goal is to look at the sermon from a third person perspective and consequently, counter check the contents from what the Bible says.

Catholics and non-Catholic Christians alike hold to the reliability of the Scriptures.  Many even, hold to inerrancy.  Thus, when an exposition is made, one has to be very careful not to read his interpretation into the text.  For the goal in Biblical Criticism is not eisegesis (that is to read into) but rather, exegesis (to read from).

One part of the Pope’s sermon is related to the Markan passage in 9:38-40, detailing an incident where the disciples shooed away an exorcist who drives away demons by invoking Christ’s name.

Here’s how the text goes:

38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us.

- Mark 9:38-40

Now here’s how Pope Francis interpreted the Scriptures:

“They complain,” the Pope said in his homily, because they say, “If he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good.” And Jesus corrects them: “Do not hinder him, he says, let him do good.” The disciples, Pope Francis explains, “were a little intolerant,” closed off by the idea of possessing the truth, convinced that “those who do not have the truth, cannot do good.” “This was wrong . . . Jesus broadens the horizon.” Pope Francis said, “The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation”

I think the Pope is right on many things.  First, just because one isn’t a Christian doesn’t mean he cannot do good.  In fact, belief in God is not necessary for one to do good.  Atheists and even Anti-theists do that all the time.  They live decent lives, take care of their family, and many are philanthropists.  Pope Francis is also right in saying that the root of the possibility of doing good traces back to creation.  For one to be created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27), it can be easily inferred that God’s goodness is reflected in mankind.  In this, Pope Francis agrees.  He says, ”The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart”

However, I think my agreement with Pope Francis ends there, at least in light of the sermon.  I have several reservations with it.  Reservations which, while hopefully may not offend, has serious ramifications in the Catholic faith.  In fact, the Pope’s sermon today may cause a doctrinal fault line if not remedied.

For one, which is a little bit less serious, is that the Pope fails to interpret the Biblical passage in context.  Jesus rebuked the disciples, not because they think the man is incapable of doing good, but rather because the man is not with them and yet is doing exorcism in Jesus’ name.  It is of utmost importance that when interpreting anything, Biblical or non-biblical text, one must not do so in the absence of proper context.  To fail in such, one will inevitably build his case on shallow ground.

Pope Francis further explained that the disciples were intolerant, unto which Jesus rebuked them from being so.  In the Pope’s own words, he said that Jesus  ”broadens the horizons”.  I think this is dangerous.  The mere fact that one tolerates something means that that something is wrong.  Why? Because if something is right, you don’t tolerate it.  You AGREE with it.  Further, one has to wonder, if Jesus indeed teaches tolerance, why did He rebuke the Pharisees to their necks in His three years of ministry? Why did He overturned the tables of the money changers in Jerusalem? Why is it, when the adulterous woman is brought in His presence, did He silence the accusers? None of Jesus’ actions in his ministry hints a message of ‘tolerance’.  In fact He did otherwise.  Instead of telling the Pharisees “you’ll end up in the better side of eternity in your deathbed because of your good deeds,” Jesus dropped the bomb.  He rebuked the most righteous bunch of the ancient days with these words: “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Matthew 23:33) What a sharp contrast!  It turns out that in Jesus’ view, tolerance is a false virtue!

The Pope added further,

 ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there (heaven).” (Full context here)

I think the Pope is making a great blunder here.  One cannot simply enter the Kingdom of God while rejecting Jesus (John 14:6). This is very clear.  Since Jesus claims to be God (John 10:30-33), and atheists reject God, it follows transitively that atheists reject Jesus.  One has to wonder then, how can the Pope’s homily not contradict the well established verse in John 14:6? The Bible offers an even greater warning.  It says that “whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” (John 3:36)

Father James Martin, further supplements the Pope’s case by saying

But rarely do you hear it said by Catholics so forcefully, and with such evident joy. And in this era of religious controversies, it’s a timely reminder that God cannot be confined to our narrow categories.

Yet the Bible seems to be clear as day.  Jesus, in Matthew 7:13-14 says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Christians are generally not boxing God in in terms of the Doctrine of Salvation.  Rather God confined the road to salvation Himself.  We are simply parroting what has been said in the revealed Word.  Thus, one cannot simply brush out what has been revealed from above and smuggle in our own assumptions.

In conclusion, while none perhaps would argue that Pope Francis intended the sermon out of goodwill, the price to pay for brushing aside the Bible as a Christian is hefty.  More so, as a leader of a billion adherent of the Catholic Faith.  I hope the Pope would rethink his stance… as I believe the previous pope, Pope Benedict XVI would have reacted strongly against the homily.



Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!

Visit our friends!

A few highly recommended friends...