The Heart of the Gospel

"Behold this Heart which has loved men so much, and yet men do not want to love Me in return. Through you My divine Heart wishes to spread its love everywhere on earth."

The young people next asked the pope what was the reason for his great love for the poor. “Because it’s the heart of the Gospel,” he replied. “For me, the heart of the Gospel is about the poor."

A blogging priest recently described Pope Francis as a "puzzle inside a riddle wrapped in an enigma" and I must confess that I, too, find Pope Francis's thought and homilies puzzling and at times disconcerting and I was quite taken aback by much of his thought expressed in the interview to some Belgian youths. Despite the Church having one of the most verbose Popes in living memory, trying to understand 'where Francis is coming from' I still find to be something of a challenge that I did not experience in the reign of Blessed Pope John Paul II or Benedict XVI.

I understand here that we have a Pope who speaks 'from the heart' and 'off the cuff' and that we should, perhaps, not try to read too much into words that are apparently not carefully prepared for public consumption. Yet, with Francis, certain things either chide or niggle away at you. At one point, it seems, "mercy" is the heart of the Gospel, as it is today in his homily. At another point, the poor, "for me", are at the heart of the Gospel. Yet, you could be easily forgiven for thinking that, equally, for Pope Francis, challenging the "throwaway culture" is at the heart of the Gospel, or fraternal sharing, justice or solidarity are at the heart of the Gospel. For many high ranking prelates in the Church today, "ecumenism" is at the heart of the Gospel and it certainly seems important to Francis.

With Benedict XVI and with Blessed Pope John Paul II, it was quite clear that at the heart of the Gospel was or is Jesus Christ and his transforming love, mercy and grace. Both made it quite clear that the Gospel, given to us by Our Lord, taught by His Church, touches everything, every individual, every family, every society, nation, that nation's politics and economics and every individual's thought, word, commission and omission. It touches marriage, our respect or lackthereof for human life.

It touches whether I blog, whether I am charitable to others, or not, how I spend my money, whether I am chaste or give into sexual temptations, whether I pig out in Lent, or restrain my self, whether I turn up for work, or lay in bed instead, or whether I decide to knock blogging on the head for Passiontide. For me, it is difficult to pin down the 'heart of the Gospel' to one thing and I really expect that for Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, while her work was in the service of the poor and dying, the poor and dying, to her, were not necessarily 'the heart of the Gospel' because even the little 24 hour on call Saint of the poor was concerned with loving Jesus in the poor, loving Jesus and serving Him alone.

"For me" the heart of the Gospel may be about the poor, but equally "for him" it may be about devotion to his marriage and his family, but whatever the 'heart of the Gospel' is for a man or woman, it would be surprising and worrying if Our Lord Jesus Christ was not absolutely at the heart of it because His Heart is meant to be everything to the Christian who is helpless without his Saviour. Our Lord's words on Marriage are quite clear and for one man this may well be at 'the heart of the Gospel'. For a contemplative lay man or woman, nun, monk, friar or priest, devotion to the Sacred Heart, to the Holy Eucharist, to Our Lady may be at the 'heart of the Gospel' or perhaps finding Jesus in living in community. To another, 'self denial' could well be at the 'heart of the Gospel' since Our Lord told His followers to 'deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me'. Are they not all right? As long as the focus is the Lord, they surely are.

"This is the banner of the Gospel, not of communism: of the Gospel! But it’s poverty without ideology…. And it’s for this reason that I believe that the poor are at the centre of Jesus’ message."

If we are not to fall into the trap of creating idols out of Faith, we have to immerse ourselves in the raw fact that without Jesus Christ, nothing we undertake for the good of humanity and its materially poor will be a success.  We could go further still and say that unless we are undertaking some good for Jesus Christ, seeking, if failing as we do, to fulfill the will of God, little we do for humanity will benefit mankind or profit ourselves. For this reason, I also find the following a little troubling...

“We’re all brothers and sisters. Believers, non-believers or whether belonging to this or that religious confession, Jews, Moslems… we’re all brothers and sisters! Human beings are at the centre of history and this for me is really important: humans are at the centre (of society). In this moment of history, humans have been pushed away from the centre, they have slid towards the margins and at the centre --- at least right now --- there’s power, money and we must work on behalf of human beings, for men and women who are the image of God.”

On the face of this statement there is nothing to trouble the Christian. Nobody can deny that we are all, indeed, 'brothers and sisters' created in the image of God and that in this moment of history, humans and our needs are being pushed to the margins by those who worship false idols of power and money, but has there been a moment in history when this has not been the case? We can acknowledge that things are 'really out of hand now' but is not the problem rather created by us because we human beings fail lamentably to put Jesus Christ and His Gospel at the centre of our lives, our families, our societies, our nations? Of course, to put Jesus Christ first and to proclaim Him and to build all our hopes, dreams and aspirations on a relationship with Him might not immediately go down well with Moslems and Jews (and Freemasons) but it would be 100% faithful to the Lord when anything else but fidelity to Christ will yield little in terms of freedom or a more just society. The great tyrant is sin. The great tyranny of sin is enthroned by moral relativism. Jesus Christ is the Liberator!

If the 20th century taught us Catholics one thing, it should surely be that we don't have anything better to offer the world than Jesus Christ. A part of that expression of love for the Lord may well be the relief of the poor, but it is surely important that we make plain that any mission for the poor is a mission firstly for the love of the Lord Jesus.

I've been reading a book on the KGB and British defectors who infiltrated MI5 but who were working for Moscow and it is clear that all of them thought they were doing a great service for humanity. None of them, of course, had much thought for the Lord Jesus Christ. They all believed we were 'brothers and sisters' or rather 'comrades' and all believed that to fulfill the ultimate destiny of the human race we must work against power, money (and the capitalist class system) and put human beings firmly at the centre of economic and political life. It did not work out well, but then, when you abandon God, our only Sovereign Good, what do we expect but misery?

If - and it is - for all of us Catholics, our sole mission was to love Jesus Christ and to fulfill God's will for our lives in matters both great and small and we strove with God's grace to be faithful to that mission, I suppose that not only would the poor be better loved, fed and cared for, but marriage and family life would be bliss, 'same-sex marriage' would be overturned by populations convinced by the truth of Jesus Christ, abortion, instead of the unborn, would be wiped out and sin - and all attraction to power, money and 'worldliness' - would dissipate because the Devil and the self would be the chief enemy of every Christian. Why are we not that? Why are we not Saints - the real and ultimate purpose for which we were created?

"Jesus repeats it so often: “Don’t be afraid! Don’t be afraid!’ And he says it many times, doesn’t he? And why’s that? Because he knows that fear is a rather ‘normal’ feeling. We’re afraid of life, we’re afraid when faced with challenges, we’re afraid in front of God. We’re all afraid, all of us."

And with good reason. Why are we afraid? Because at the heart of the Gospel is our sin, our need and longing for Jesus Christ, our need for repentance and turning towards the Lord constantly! And if we are doing this, the poor will most certainly know it since they will be surely among the beneficiaries! Even politicians, when caught with their fingers in the till, if they embraced repentance, might resign!

“And I’m pleased because these young politicians, be they of the left or of the right, they’re speaking a new language, with a new music, a new political style."

I have placed my trust in neither princes nor politicians and, if ever it was, now is not a good time to do so. Once a politician, always a politician and no matter what language they're speaking, you can't really place your trust firmly in them. Today they tell you they've no plans to redefine marriage. Tomorrow, they redefine marriage. Today, they tell you there are 'no plans to introduce assisted suicide', tomorrow they offer a free vote on it because giving the State the right to kill its elderly, terminally ill and 'unproductive' is a 'matter of conscience'. Today they tell you they are fighting communism and terrorism, tomorrow they're funding terrorists, undermining the family and espousing militant atheism. I don't even trust Nigel Farage, for a 'new political style' has masked how many a tyrant?!

St Francis of Assisi taught us that there is something worse than poverty - lacking Jesus Christ!
St Francis taught us that there is something better than riches - Jesus Christ!
St Francis of Assisi taught us that there is something better than this life - possessing Jesus Christ in this life and for all eternity!

Too long, too long. I should give it up for Passiontide.


viterbo said…
Your post's not too long, Mr Bones. My comment might be.

2 Co. 6 . Bear not the yoke with unbelievers. For what participation hath justice with injustice? Or what fellowship hath light with darkness? 6.15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath the faithful with the unbeliever? .6.16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God; as God saith: I will dwell in them, and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 6.17 Wherefore, Go out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing: 6.18 And I will receive you; and I will be a Father to you; and you shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

We are all made in the image of God, but it is only through Christ we become His sons and daughters.
As a convert, one has no choice but to follow the advice of Christ -seek, ask, knock. As a seeker my first encounters with Catholicism was classical Catholicism - Calvary - the Mass (the pre-vII understanding of Holy Mass as the re-presentation of Calvary, not a memorial supper for asssembly) - the Catholicism for all ages was what spoke to me - History, Scripture, Tradition. The saints and their writings. Learning about the Real Presence and, since I read scripture, actually understanding St John's words. The Rosary is the link that kept me going. I believe God was governing all this. Then came awareness of the Popes, why Christ founded His Church on Peter. My awareness of what JPII was up to stalled my conversion - the picture of Assisi was no small disconcertion for me. When Benedict came along my conversion continued and I became a Catholic despite the best efforts of the devil to stop me, and despite the terrible catechesis (some was exemplary - I had more than one round with RCIA), despite the new mass with its multiple 'real presences' obscuring THE REAL PRESENCE, despite all too many of the priests protestantism and despite the unCatholicity of most novus ordo indoctrinated faithful. Now, with Francis - the convert will meet the Pope of the Press before anything else. He will meet the Advocate cover boy; the time man of the year, the 'who am i to judge' Pope, the 'don't obsesses' pope, the pope who lurves all and sundry so long as they are NOT faithful Catholics. So long as they think praying the Rosary is for anesthetized creedy parrots etc. They will meet the pope who thinks and preaches that conversion is for idiots. This is why Voris' new 'pretend the pope doesn't exist' mentality is not only silly but possibly culpable. This pope is a convert's counterversion. He isn't an enigma or a puzzle, just a relativistic modernist antinomian. it is nothing short of hellish that shepherds should be encouraging those steeped in the devil's protest against Calvary and Our King to stay put. This pope encourages those shouting, 'Crucify Him.' Just as JPII did on occassion.
ps.18.8 The law of the Lord is unspotted, converting souls: the testimony of the Lord is faithful, giving wisdom to little ones.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for this Mr. L. and Viterbo that was a very edifying testimony - I love hearing people's stories about how they converted to Catholicism et.,

It is quite clear my dear Catholic friends that we have a Pope that is a MODERNIST - reading Pascendi D. G. you have a complete description of what we are dealing with. Now if "modernism is the synthesis of all heresies" as Pius X defined it - then the real problem, puzzle, riddle is - what do you do with a full-blown Modernist Pope? - obey him I will not when he teaches error...that's for sure...and one doesn't have to be a professional Catholic or have 10 degrees in theology to undertand when the Pope is spreading confusion and ERROR. There is the intelligence of the Catholic Sense of Things which I beleive is a gift from the Sacred Heart Himself...and there are other concrete things to confirm the Catholc Sense of Things.

I can only continue to pray for this Pope. I found him alien right from the beginning - like when he stepped out onto the loggia. This too, when I knew nothing about the man Bergoglio.

He is an extremely unsettling man - I wish it were not so...I do not trust him...terrible thing - I know...

tro said…
Francis, like so many of his fellow Jesuits, seems to be very sympathetic to 'Liberation Theology'. Liberation Theology analyses society primarily in terms of economic class: it centres on 'commitment to the poor'; it promotes class struggle and justifies the use of violence to secure its economic goals; it is essentially a species of Marxism.

Liberation Theology sees the 'church' as the 'People of God' comprising vibrant 'Base Communities' led by local priests or revolutionary socialists. There is no need for the Catholic Church per se in this hypothesis.

The Liberation Theology idea of the 'People of God' may also explain Francis's frequent use of the term 'ideology', which for him, seems to mean anything which precedes Vatican II.

Be that as it may, few of us, I reckon, had any idea what was in store for the Church with the elevation of Francis.

We know better now.
Unknown said…
I hear ya Mr. Viterbo.I converted 13 yrs ago partly as a result of a Catholic post-abortion recovery ministry--Project Rachel. I had to wade through so much crap in the Novus Ordo RCIA classes that were available to me. I had already read enough to know when the teaching was incorrect. Even more shocking was the RCIA volunteer who told me that she too had had an abortion but felt no need to confess it. The abortion was between her and 'her God.'

I'm pretty sure I would never have converted if Francis had been pope. I know JP2 wasn't perfect and that Assissi thing was a scandal, but for years I carried around his Word to Women Who Have Had Abortions in my purse. He didn't sugarcoat the sin of abortion with mercy; he spoke the truth about how wrong it was, then offered the mercy. I can't tell you how blessed my first confession was.

Kim , a Seattle speaker for Western Washington Project Rachel
Pope Francis says... said…
“Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us… If this invitation does not radiate forcefully and attractively, the edifice of the Church’s moral teaching risks becoming a house of cards, and this is our greatest risk. It would mean that it is not the Gospel which is being preached, but certain doctrinal or moral points based on specific ideological options.”
Pope Francis says... said…
“Within the Church countless issues are being studied and reflected upon with great freedom. Differing currents of thought in philosophy, theology and pastoral practice, if open to being reconciled by the Spirit in respect and love, can enable the Church to grow, since all of them help to express more clearly the immense riches of God’s word. For those who long for a monolithic body of doctrine guarded by all and leaving no room for nuance, this might appear as undesirable and leading to confusion. But in fact such variety serves to bring out and develop different facets of the inexhaustible riches of the Gospel.”
Pope Francis says.... said…
“In her ongoing discernment, the Church can also come to see that certain customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel, even some which have deep historical roots, are no longer properly understood and appreciated. Some of these customs may be beautiful, but they no longer serve as means of communicating the Gospel. We should not be afraid to re-examine them. At the same time, the Church has rules or precepts which may have been quite effective in their time, but no longer have the same usefulness for directing and shaping people’s lives. Saint Thomas Aquinas pointed out that the precepts which Christ and the apostles gave to the people of God ‘are very few’.”
Pope Francis says said…
“With the holy intent of communicating the truth about God and humanity, we sometimes give [the faithful] a false god or a human ideal which is not really Christian. In this way, we hold fast to a formulation while failing to convey its substance. This is the greatest danger. Let us never forget that ‘the expression of truth can take different forms’.”pplikey miniere
umblepie said…

A brilliant post Laurence, I entirely share your sentiments which you have expressed so well and in all charity. Thank you.
Liam Ronan said…
I think these passages from the Gospels go straight to the 'heart' of Jesus'.

"Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel'." Mark 1: 14-15 (These are the first words of Jesus regarding the heart of the Gospel)

"And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age'." Matthew 28: 18-20 (These are the 'commissioning words addressed to the disciples, the last words uttered by Jesus before ascending into heaven.)

"And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the Mouth of God '." Matthew 4: 2-4

"And thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength. This is the first commandment. And the second is like to it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is no other commandment greater than these." Mark 12: 30-31

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." John 3: 16 - 17
Katalina said…
I think part of the problem is that his English is being poorly translated and the Vortex on CMTV talked about this problem a couple of weeks ago. Another factor is that this man was a Psychologist and a Chemist and that's why he talks the way he does. But somebody at the Vatican is definitely poorly translating what he says in Spanish because he is not good in English like the last two or three were I mean Pope Paul at least spoke English.
Jack Tollers said…
If I remember well, Judas thought the poor were at the very heart of things and actually argued against Jesus over the importance of them... over Mary Magdalene who thought differently.

It is a question of remembering: Jesus said that Mary Magdalene's anointment would be remembered for ever and ever.

He put Himself at the heart of the Gospel and said that the poor will always exist, and can be helped whenever desired, but that what this woman had done... was priceless.

Liturgy over alms-giving, social work, or what will you.
Liam Ronan said…

Or maybe it's down to bad microphones or acoustics, or dodgy audio/sound systems within and without the Vatican.

Maybe the crows and gulls swooped-down and snatched the original texts.

Sorry. I couldn't pass up the chance at trying to elicit a smile.

God bless you for your charitable take on all this.
viterbo said…
@Kim, God bless. I can't say for certain if I would have not fallen away if I had a catechist that cold-conscienced.
Unknown said…
To Liam--tee hee hee!
Kim in Seattle
Unknown said…
To Viterbo---you know Mr. V, I could get past the 'cold-conscienced' Catholics because I understood they were simply unrepentant heretics. Not so sure I could have bypassed a heretic pope in my quest for truth in the Catholic faith. For this reason, I find it difficult to evangelize under the current pontificate. How do you respond to the non-Catholic friend or relative who praises the new pope for being so inclusive, tolerant and liberal? Would you even want such a person to convert if that is their view of the Church? And you certainly can't expect the standard Novus Ordo RCIA to clear up the pope's heretical comments. Hell, my old RCIA instructors are in love with him. They don't sit around wondering if he's been mistranslated or misunderstood or if he's misspoken. If I had become Catholic under this pontificate, it would have been in spite of the pope and his heresies.--------Kim in Seattle
Unknown said…
And to Jack---Archbishop Fulton Sheen said that the patron saint of social justice is Judas Iscariot.
Anonymous said…
Hello, Kim. Yes, It's a great trial for us. The silver lining for those who have managed to hold onto the Faith is that our Faith is stronger and more well informed, and we know we have a duty to pray and do penance for the terrible sins against God, particularly by those in Holy Orders.
Anonymous said…
Very funny!