A Final Message About “Fully” Accepting Jesus
From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.
Today is the final installment in our series, Jesus Is Everything. As I sat watching the Two Popes movie, I was both inspired by the movie and compelled to know more about Pope Francis. In my research, I discovered lots of interesting information. Mostly inspiring and good, and like all of us, Pope Francis has a few skeletons.
He has a number of first’s to his credit; the first Jesuit Pope, the first Pope from South America, the first non-European Pope since the 8th century, the first Pope to speak to the joint session of Congress, the first Pope not to live in the Papal apartments and the first Pope to preach in front of one million people in the United States. He is a populist Pope who is heavily indoctrinated in pastoral theology.
Pope Francis is both very smart and personable, which allowed him to rise quickly in the Jesuit ranks. He became a Cardinal in 2001 and quickly became admired by the other cardinals. In fact, after the death of John Paul the second in 2005, after only being a Cardinal for four years, was the runner-up in choosing the New Pope. A remarkable ascent.
He became the Pope in 2013 after Pope Benedict resigned due to murky controversies. As the Cardinals were meeting to discuss the next Pope, a fellow Cardinal went up to Pope Francis and said; Don’t forget the poor. After his election, Pope Francis remembered this advice and believing it was a message of providence, selected the name Francis, after Saint Francis. His reasoning as he states; Saint Francis was a man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man.
Pope Francis grew up in a middle-class family in Argentina. Prior to becoming the Pope his name was Jorge Mario Bergoglio. He had a fairly normal childhood and was reasonably educated. At first, he was a chemist prior to entering the Jesuit Seminary. He is an avid soccer fan and loves to Tango. He had a couple of romantic interests as a young adult and almost was engaged. He was always torn between following the priesthood or leading a secular life. A confusion that delayed his ordination as a priest until the age of thirty-one. In fact, he told one girlfriend, If I don’t become a priest, I would want to be married to you.
Pope Francis is not without controversy. Early in his ministry and as a leader of the Jesuit Society of Argentina, Francis was criticized for not doing more to stand up to the military Junta that terrorized Argentina in the late 1970s. He has not denounced gay marriage, which has led the conservative faction of the church to complain. His response; If a person is gay and seeks God and has goodwill, who am I to judge? Many have also suggested that Pope Francis has been slow in dealing with the Catholic child abuse scandal. For a time, even the Jesuit society was critical, because he was too pastoral and concerned with religiosity, versus social Justice.
At his center, Francis is a humble man and remains committed to helping people, especially the poor. He avoids the material trappings of being a Pope. In fact, he still wears his Iron cross from his time as a bishop. He leans more to mercy than judgment, which we find in one of his more famous quotes; A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just.
Certainly, all this is nice to know and gives us color into the life of Pope Francis. In my research, I wanted to discover more, like how did he find and fully accept Jesus. A friend of mine, Tom Stanton, once told me, You have to fully embrace Jesus to fully experience Jesus. A well-intentioned comment that has made me think over the last year, what did Tom mean by fully and how does one arrive at this point? As my year has preceded, I have turned this thought, Fully, over and over in my mind. As I was doing my research on Pope Francis, I discovered what Tom was talking about when he said, fully.
Pope Francis has a three-step process to fully accepting Jesus, the first two are easy. First, we must find Jesus. Doing things like reading the Bible, going to church, or attending a Bible study. In this step, we are both compelled and desirous of finding Jesus. The second step is our outward proclamation; which includes, wearing crosses, leaving Bibles on our desk, singing in church, or speak openly about Jesus. In this step, we are not embarrassed or afraid to say what we know about Jesus.
The third and final step is where the word, fully comes into play. Pope Francis says we must fully believe in the resurrection of Jesus, to fully accept Jesus. While the first two steps are easy to absorb, this third step is the biggest hurdle in our journey to fully knowing Jesus. It involves believing Jesus’ sacrificial act on the cross gives all humankind redemption. We must both understand the importance of the cross and the sacredness of the gift Jesus has given us. When we do, it moves us from seeing our lives as permanently residing in this world to seeing our lives as an eternal pursuit of the divine. In this moment of belief, we no longer intellectualize the cross, but fully have faith in Jesus’ act on the cross. With this faith, we become both freed and redeemed. The movements of this world take on far less meaning and our worries subside. Both our inner and outer expressions transform into loving God and our neighbor.
For Pope Francis, our fully accepting Jesus happens with the help of the Holy Spirit. A calling out to the Spirit to both change us and guide us. I have long held that this part of the journey is very unique, different from individual to individual. When completed, we no longer have a foot in two worlds. We are no longer Catholics or Methodists, we are first Christians. Pope Francis describes this attitude as follows; The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!
This journey to fully believing in Jesus is different for every person. And for each individual there will be moments of remorse when we fail to live what we have fully accepted; and moments of joy when we live what we have fully accepted. Fully accepting Jesus; can take the time or happen in an instant, but should be constantly pursued.
I hope and pray for all those on this journey of faith, that this helps in some way.
For my readers over the last three years, this is my last regular posting of a blog for a while. My fourth book is underway and will require my full attention until it is published on March 31st. Until then, be at peace and enjoy the blessings of Jesus.
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman