The mission of our church
A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to watch the movie 42, about the life of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American baseball player hired to play in the Major Leagues, for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
In the scene where Robinson is offered the job, team president Branch Rickey asks him if he’ll be able to control his temper in the face of boos, bigotry and discrimination. “You want a player who doesn’t have the guts to fight back?” Robinson asks. “No,” Rickey replies, “I want a player who’s got the guts not to fight back.” Robinson persevered despite all the obstacles and revolutionized the history of sports in this country.
Since the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has revolutionized the church with his message of compassion; he has invited everyone to promote the “revolution of tenderness.” St. Peter’s successor wants all of us, the baptized, to be a revolutionary church — a church that not only welcomes those who arrive at its doors but that uses all of its resources to go out and meet those who do not come, a church that approaches. He wants us to approach and encounter all those who have been outcast from the ecclesial community because they have been afflicted by the law that governs us. The pope wants us to seek, before our Creator and Father, new ways to interpret the law with mercy and the saving tenderness revealed by the passion, death and resurrection of Christ our Lord.
Pope Francis wants us to contemplate the tenderness of Jesus who cries for Jerusalem (Luke 19:41); the tenderness of Jesus who is moved before the crowd because they are like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36); Jesus who cannot allow the crowd that follows him to stay without eating, because they are at risk of fainting along the way, and urges his apostles to provide them with food (Matthew 6:34). St. Peter’s successor fervently challenges us to discover new ways of tenderness that attract all of those who are wounded or sick from any form of sin, like Jesus who welcomes the adulterous woman, challenging the community to a deep examination of conscience (John 7:53).
Forgiveness is the ultimate expression of God’s tenderness; this form of tenderness does not make us weak. On the contrary, forgiveness clearly makes us show the strength of God in our existence in such a way that God, working in us, overcomes the impulse of revenge, defeats suspicion, doubt and distrust. Forgiveness strengthens the capacity of our humanity created in the image of the Incarnate Word.
The revolutionary tenderness of Jesus led him to teach us that we have to forgive up to “seventy times seven;” to never lose hope, to not be defeated, not even before the grave, for the love of God overcomes death. The love of God is the only thing capable of killing death and thus achieving the life that does not end, the true life in the presence of God.
Jesus taught and enables us to respond with a “No” to revenge, discouragement and doubt. Jesus enables us to be strong in the apparent weakness of the tenderness of forgiveness. The mission of all of us as a church is to be revolutionaries like Jesus, not to respond to aggression with aggression, or by merely following the models of human justice. Christians in the world have the mission to make a difference in all strata of society, even among nonbelievers, so that the world sees the strength of God in our “weakness.” That is where our noble battle is; that is where the true crown awaits us; that is where we offer our service to the world, as Jackie Robinson did for baseball.
St. Paul wrote: “For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.” (2 Timothy 4, 6-8)
All the holy men and women who have reached the goal, have achieved it by making great sacrifice, like Mary. Those men and women are the ones who have made the difference in history and have interceded for us, so that we have the strength not to respond with the criteria of the world but only echo the revolutionary response of Jesus. (See Romans 12, 1-2)
Read the Spanish version of this column.
Northwest Catholic - July/August 2018
Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., is auxiliary bishop of Seattle and vicar for Hispanic ministry.Website: www.seattlearchdiocese.org/Archdiocese/auxiliaries.aspx