Papa Francis, The Prodigal, and “the Good Son.”

by | Nov 15, 2013 | Uncategorized

022-prodigal-sonHow do you feel about Pope Francis’ style? It is no secret that his now famous  interview has provoked quite a variety of reactions, frequently serving as a kind of Rorschach test.

Dr. Gregory Popcak come to grips with his own reactions when he writes “I recently had a client who was struggling with serious faith issues and depression quit counseling with me a few weeks ago because, in his words, “I’m much more of a Pope Francis/Nancy Pelosi Catholic and you’re an old-school, Pope John Paul II Catholic.”

He explores his own reactions to the statement and then describes an AHA! experience in terms of a new insight into the Prodigal son. We all know the story – which is not really about the Prodigal Son but the loving father. In a post to Patheos he shares that insight through the lens of the “Good son”…

“Here, in Francis, my Papa was running out into the street to meet my brothers and sisters who were lost but now found.   He was killing the fatted calf and putting the finest robes on them.  He was giving them his ring.   And here I was, stuck doing the same damn thing I’ve always been doing and getting even less thanks for it.   People who left the Church, who hated the Church (and yes, hated and sometimes abused me for loving it), who wouldn’t give the Church a second glance were suddenly realizing that God loved them, that the Church welcomed them, and all I could do was feel bitter about it.  Because it was a fricking inconvenience to me.   I didn’t feel bitter because I don’t love them.   I do.  It wasn’t that I don’t want them to know how much they are loved and welcome.  I do.  But I was bitter because, to be perfectly honest, having to love them the way they are today makes my life harder than I would like it to be.   It isn’t enough for me to  just make statements and then sit in my rightness and be right.   All of a sudden, I have to really listen, to deal with the mess of their lives and put up with–no, actually respect– their “who do you think YOU are?” attitudes.    Yes, I loved them,  truly, but not enough.  Pope Francis was showing me that for all my brave words and self-congratulatory thoughts about my commitment to love my neighbor, I loved my comfort zone a little more than I loved my brother and sister who were coming home after a long time of suffering and loneliness.”

Further on he continues… “I have to get past the pride and joy I get from “being right.”  From being “the right kind of Catholic.”  From being “the good son.”  I have to show my brothers and sisters that I love them–first and always.  That I want them sitting next to me even though we don’t see eye-to-eye.   I have to be willing to learn from them as much as teach.  To acknowledge that they have things to offer me and that I am glad to be related to them even though we make each other uncomfortable sometimes.   If I can do that, if I can show them the love that Jesus has truly placed in my heart,  then I can have all the family arguments I want–and heck, maybe even win a few of them.  But if they don’t feel the love of Jesus radiating out of me, what’s the use in any of it?  Without love, I am no prophet.  I am just a clanging gong.  A noisy cymbal.

“I think I’m starting to get it.  I think God, through Pope Francis, is reminding me that being right is fine, but I need to be even more committed to love because it is love that wins men’s hearts.  It goes back to what Pope Benedict said in Caritas in Veritatem, that taken together, love and truth prevent love from being reduced either to mere sentimentality or fideism.  God is reminding me that I still  have a way to go before I have mastered that art.”

There is lots to reflect on here whether one is “of Paul, Apollos or Cephas” (1 Corinthians 1:12), a Pope Francis Catholic or a Pope John Paul II catholic. This is a challenge to righteousness wherever it is found. I know it caused me to reflect on my own brand of righteousnes. The longer article in Patheos is well worth a read.

Dr. Gregory Popcak directs the Pastoral Solutions Institute, an organization dedicated to helping Catholics find faith-filled solutions to marriage, family, and personal problems.



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