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Father Muench Says...

A papal call to create a better world

Aug. 5, 2015

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

I often add to my homilies what I hope is a real challenge to the people to live out their faith by “making the world a better place.” I know only too well that the real challenge that has to be faced is what exactly we should do to make the world a better place.

Recently, my friends, the O’Reillys, sent me a newspaper article written by Leonard Pitts, Jr., a columnist whose words appear in many newspapers.  This particular column was entitled, “Pope should stick to religion.”

Pitts reminds us in this article that many American politicians have criticized Pope Francis for his recent encyclical and other writings.  Pope Francis makes it very clear in his talks and in this encyclical his concern for the poor and needy of the world. 

For the cause of the poor, Pope Francis often challenges the excesses of capitalism.  Pitts sums up his understanding of the Pope’s message as he writes, “While conceding the need for economic growth, the pontiff excoriated a model that concentrates wealth at the top and leaves the poor to scramble for the remains.”

Pitts makes it clear that his message is based on the foundation of the message of Jesus and the message of Pope Francis.  He has discovered that nearly two billion people are Christians, followers of Jesus Christ – followers of Jesus’ message; that message is – “love one another.”

Pitts comments on the Pope’s message.  He writes, “Love is not talk.  Love is compassion in action.  It is intolerance of suffering. It is urgent empathy.  And it is something two billion of us are told to give.  Candidly, most of us don’t seem to take the command all that seriously.  But the pope inspires you to wonder what the world would be like if we did.”

Wow! I wish I had said that.  Certainly it is quite a message.  I wish more readers had the opportunity to read this article.

Too many people will only hear those who wish the pope would simply tell us all to be good. 

Pope Francis is not afraid to be much bolder. He is ready to challenge us  and the world’s leaders to do something, to put Christ’s challenges into action.  We – each one of us – is asked by our Holy Father to make this world a better place by doing something.

I have also been sent another column that concerns the Pope’s encyclical and his teachings. This one column was written by Father George Coyne,  a well-known Jesuit astronomer and scientist, who is now at LeMoyne College in Syracuse.

Father Coyne writes this: “The pope invites all who dwell on the Earth to enter into dialogue about the environment with the urgency that we together must take action.  He makes clear that care for the environment is closely linked with care for one another and that our poorest brothers and sisters are those who suffer most from damage to the environment.” 

The pope’s care for creation arises from the care for the poor, which he has manifested continuously.

Father Coyne realizes that Pope Francis’ boldness will bring challenges.  So, he writes this: “Critics say the pope should not get involved in these issues but stay put in his Church.  Such a criticism belies the basic understanding of the need for informed moral leadership in all sectors of human life.  And, frankly, I suspect that the pope’s command of the complex issues surpasses that of many of his critics.”

I am so excited that we have a Pope who speaks boldly.  I can’t wait to see what he will say when he addresses the Congress of our country in September.  All sorts of questions will certainly come up, including the involvement of Church and State.  Too many will watch this event carefully to discover something to challenge.  Pope Francis is not afraid to bring up the truth – especially about how we can make our world better by our care for the poor. I worried that some of you would not see these columns that I mentioned. I also want to encourage you to read the Holy Father’s encyclical “Laudato si’”.  It is written in language that you will certainly understand.

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