How Timely the Lectionary: The Week’s Readings, Pope Francis, and Economic Justice

Christopher Cocca

Here are Sunday’s readings from the Revised Common Lectionary (as compiled and contextualized by Vanderbilt University).

Here are some reflections made in preparation for an adult education hour based  on these texts.   Here’s the resource packet I put together for class.

Here’s what the Pope said yesterday.

The Pope is leading on Luke 16:9 like no other Christian in recent memory.  But he’s also leading on the context of Sunday’s readings:  we don’t get the full NT import of God over mammon, of using wealth to lift up the poor (to entertain angels unaware, or to do onto Jesus that good we do onto each other), or of holding that in tension with supplications for those in power without the grounding prophetic message of the OT readings.

Look at Amos 4 and Psalm 113.  Look at Jeremiah 8 and Psalm 79.  Then and only then can we tackle and understand the NT readings in their proper context and with their proper tone, Jesus’ tone, echoing the diction of God’s prophetic witness in the ancient history of Israel.

This has everything to do with Pope Francis’ witness to modern economic injustice.

He discarded his prepared speech after listening to Francesco Mattana, a 45-year-old married father of three who lost his job with an alternative energy company four years ago.

The Pope said he does not want to be seen as a

cordial manager of the Church who comes here and says to you ‘have courage'”.

I don’t want this. I want this courage to come from inside me and push me to do everything I can as a pastor and a man.

Hold these statements alongside the call in 1 Timothy 2 to pray for leaders and those in high places.  Observe this Pope, this man in the highest of places, speak like Jesus about every Christian’s call to the poor.

I’ve never been Catholic, not even for a day, but I’d be crazy and dishonest to say I don’t see and hear clearly the vocation of Jesus in Francis’ public ministry.  So, yes to ecumenism, but more importantly and radically, yes to the Gospel of Jesus.  Yes to good news for the poor.  Yes to this way of being Christian, yes to following God in the way of Jesus.

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4 Comments

  1. I think that Pope Francis does such a wonderful job reaching out to the marginalized, and insisting that every man must do what he can to restore the balance of human dignity, because he takes every person into himself. He empathizes, to a supernatural degree, with the lives of every single person alive. What we are witnessing is an echo of the supreme empathy of the Incarnation. When Jesus took on human nature, we literally became a part of Him. As a Catholic, I’d argue that the success of Pope Francis is proof? confirmation? that the Vicar of Christ really is just that.

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  2. It’s funny you say that, because last night, after reading about the transgendered man in Spain who says he had a private meeting with the Pope, I thought to myself, as a non-Catholic, that if ever I were to believe in the concept of the Pope as the Vicar of Christ (in ways that people like you and me aren’t), it would be because of this kind of thing. I almost posted that in my comment on your post from yesterday. But for me, when I hear Francis unplugged, I do feel like he is speaking from the heart. As a Catholic, you might say that he’s speaking from the heart of Christ. But then again, hopefully, at our most prophetic and humble, all Christians would, when speaking from their heart, speak from the heart of Christ. I think this goes back to one of the concepts you talk about, imitation. Would it that everyone who claims Christian were speaking from the heart of Christ rather than from their own preferences (here I’m thinking less about doctrine and more about social justice…the relationship between them is a whole other thing, but I’ve always been a wisdom is crying out in the streets kind of guy). What I think we have in Francis is a true (and thus, truly radical) Christian. That’s enough for me. He’s not just the leader of Catholics. He is, right now, the leader of all Christians…the closest, most fascinating example of this crazy idea that The Church isn’t only THE CHURCH. Like, I want this guy to be my pastor, and to speak to everyone all the time from the heart of God…not because he has unique access to it as Pope, but because he’s such. a. Christian. He speaks to my theological imagination, and I think he does that for a lot of non-Catholics or former Catholics. And what I hear is the ethics and mission of Jesus. And not in some heady way. What I hear is Jesus…not in some existential way, but also in some existential way. Pope or not, I feel like this would be Francis’ character and faith and witness, so the existential piece is perhaps a rare example of a rare kind of Christian (a truly radical one). I do think that his platform as Pope, and his pastoral call as Pope, has lit a fire in his heart, and I love it. He really has been called to pastor the Catholic Church in a time of historic need, but, I do believe, to speak Jesus to the world, the whole world.

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  3. Great. Now I want to watch Becket.

    But isn’t that the thing with Rome? The Vatican is always the lodestone. Whether we follow the Pope’s lead or define ourselves against it, the institutional (visible) Church is inseparable from Roman leadership. Moscow, the “Third Rome,” finds this especially galling. ;-)

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    1. well, I guess it depends on context. often, in America, Protestants, especially, say, progressive Baptists (or most progressive Christians from the South) find themselves defining their beliefs or intentions contra South Baptists or fundamentalists. “I’m not THAT kind of Baptist….”

      So, for me, the Pope and the Vatican are part of the visible church, but so is everyone else. I don’t think they can be said to lead it. But Francis certainly would be a candidate for leader of the Christendom understood a certain way.

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