When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself (Jn 12:32)
Many qualify as promising Pope Francis’ elevation. I myself have the fond hope that his gestures of simplicity, humility, poverty and love for the poor will stop dead in their tracks those Catholics who have concluded that the farther they are from the Church and the mule, the safer they are.
Simplicity usually draws us, as Father Robert P. Maloney, C.M., says in The Way of Vincent de Paul. We are captivated, for example, by an unadorned lifestyle that dispenses with ostentation, the symbols of power and wealth, and the superfluous. We are edified by folks whose simplicity shows in their authenticity: they practice what they preach.
Attractive, moreover, are the simple who, needing to use words to preach the Gospel, call spade spade and speak the truth. There is no duplicity among them, no double meaning, no dissimulation, no human respect, no cunning, no ulterior motives. And like that are the apostles, anointed now with the Holy Spirit.
Not only do they not wear luxurious clothes or silken short elbow-length capes, trimmed with ermine fur, with color that indicates hierarchical ranking. Not only do they not use titles of honor. Not only is none of them an owner of a colt to use to go from one place to another and which Jesus could have used for his entry into Jerusalem. Not only do they not have gold or silver, let alone gold- or silver-plated croziers, or pectoral crosses and episcopal rings of precious metal and stone. Not only do they not live in palaces. Not only are the apostles admirable for all this, but also for proclaiming the truth that is Jesus, letting the chips fall where they may. They obey God rather than men, not concerned about their safety or their reputation. They are happy for the opportunity to suffer for the sake of Jesus and to glorify God by their death. Embracing thus the poverty and the cross of Jesus, in which they boast, they surely show their authenticity.
The simplicity of the apostles consists also in their humility: they keep at the center of everything the risen Jesus and God, who has exalted him, and the Holy Spirit that is given to those who are submissive to God. They are as transparent as the angels, the living creatures and the elders in the book of Revelation who are focused on the worship of the one who sits on the throne and of the Lamb. They live the truth, accepting themselves for what they are, namely, a people that, by pure grace, is at the service of God, who hears the cry of the poor and the humble and reveals himself to them.
Humbled by their personal experience of Jesus’ mercy, forgiveness and love, and equipped likewise by the same experience for a greater love that makes up to a certain extent for their denials, the apostles have learned to accept help from someone and to give it to another. They know that there will only be food in abundance, so that no one may go hungry, if there is cooperation and sharing.
No, the Church would not mean lack of safety if she at least plays Balaam’s ass that got delayed, aware of divine presence. It would be better still, if we who are the Church adorn ourselves not with the things the world value, but rather with the virtues that are precious in the sight of God. Such a Church will derive much benefit from the Lord’s Supper when she does what he has done and becomes one body and blood with him.