By George W. Sarris
Last Thursday marked the one year anniversary of an event that gave Christianity a new messenger and a new message.
The messenger, of course, is Jorge Mario Bergoglio – a former janitor, nightclub bouncer, chemical technician and literature teacher. He wasn’t really new. He had been around for decades, making an impact in his home country of Argentina. It’s just that the rest of the world had rarely seen or heard him until he was elected the 266th Bishop of Rome and Pope of the Roman Catholic Church on March 13, 2013.
For most of this past year, Pope Francis was in the news almost every week . . . surprising both conservatives and liberals with what he did and what he said. TIME magazine named him Person of the Year for 2013, and a week later the LGBT magazine The Advocate did the same.
The “New” Messenger
Throughout his public life – as an individual and as a religious leader – Pope Francis has been noted for his simple lifestyle, his love and concern for the poor and marginalized, and his personal morality. His motto as Bishop and as Pope is “Miserando atque eligendo,” which loosely translated means, “lowly but chosen.”
The reason this “new” messenger caught the world by surprise is not simply the fact that he became the leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics around the world. The real reason is that his life matched his talk.
Pope Francis showed the world that Christians are not all hypocrites!
The “New” Message
Pope Francis also brought a “new” message – which also isn’t really new. It’s been around since the beginning.
In his preaching and in his actions, he has shown the world that God loves everybody – not just Catholics . . . not just the righteous . . . not even just Christians.
In a homily on May 22, 2013, the Pope said,
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!
Does God actually love all those He created . . . and will He ultimately redeem all mankind?
It’s a radical thought, to be sure. And the Pope’s remarks were quickly qualified by the Vatican and a myriad of others who rushed to speak on his behalf. But lest we dismiss them too quickly, we should not forget the central message of Christianity from its very beginning:
Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world!
“For God so loved the world . . . “ (John 3:16)
“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
“Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:2)
It’s a “new” message. But it’s one we would all do well to think about. After all, it’s been around for a very long time!