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Santa Cruz Mission chapel

Is anyone done being fascinated by our Holy Father, Pope Francis? I continue to read news outlets attempting to pinpoint him. He truly is a man of the middle road and for those who hold fast to left or right, he is an enigma, and a frustrating one at that.

I think that Pope Francis’ own words at the close of the Synod point to what he is about. And those with the ears to hear, can hear it.

He speaks of joy. Do they think he is lying?

He speaks of temptations. As much as cotton-eared so-called traditionalists want to paint him as a “liberal pope” he speaks openly about the devil and temptations. He calls out the faithful on sins so common we forget how scandalous they are (gossip) and how they destroy our efforts to evangelize by their scandal. The so-called “left” wants the Pope to be their darling, but cries against his silence at not passing sweeping legislation in a Church which is not governed that way at all.

What humors me now is how our Holy Father calls out each of these groups, and indeed all of us, in his words at the close of the Synod. Please take the time to read the full text. Here are some substantial excerpts. He speaks regarding temptations faced during the Synod. There is something for everyone here.

– One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

 – The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”

 – The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

 – The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

 – The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms,” I think, these things…

Let’s think about these words. There are few who are solely guided by these temptations and nothing more. Later on the Pope recognizes the good will of those involved and rightly refers to these as “temptations.” Everyone has, based on their genetics, personality, beliefs, environment and upbringing, certain temptations they are more likely to fall into than others.

Regarding the first: a logical, faithful, rigorous person may be moved deeply by a love of the Law and logic in our Church’s teaching. So they find the love of God through this path and want to share that love with others. Then creeps in Satan with the temptation…

Regarding the second: one cares deeply and first found God through the open arms of the Church and perhaps specifically through the parish life. He was not asked questions when he arrived, but for the first time in his life experienced unconditional love. His faith is formed and his devotion to God begins. He wants others to know this great love he experienced, this love with no strings attached. Then creeps in Satan with the temptation…

Regarding the third: she works hard. She was raised to believe that the things you love, you work for, and this is how you show your love. Her character is one of strength and steadfast dedication. When she makes a decision she sticks to it. If she falters, it means she was not dedicated or in-love enough. It is hard to understand others who cannot fulfill their commitment. Then creeps in Satan with the temptation…

Regarding the fourth: a seed among the thorns. Perhaps he was raised and works in the secular world. Perhaps he grew up seeing another suffer greatly and never formed an understanding of the beauty in suffering and as the world believes, thinks it must be avoided. His goal is to help people, to alleviate their suffering. This motivates him in his love of God and Church. Then creeps in Satan with the temptation…

Regarding the last: she feels so at home in the Church. She is dedicated to her parish and serves her parish before considering her needs. This is her parish. This is her faith. Perhaps she does not know a lot about the universal Church or the Magisterium, but she knows parish life and knows what it takes for a parish to be successful. Then creeps in Satan with the temptation…

Have any of these failed? No!

Are any of these terrible people who hate the Church, the world, or those in the world? No!

They face temptations, as we all do. We can probably see ourselves easily as one of those. If we don’t, I think we ought to think a little more about it. I experience and sometimes fall into the first temptation. How about you?

We should not despair. The Holy Father continued, “Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) – His disciples should not expect better treatment.”

If that’s not enough, here is a little more:

The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.

If you feel confused about his meaning and his vision of the Church, please read the rest. It only gets more beautiful. The Catholic Church is a hospital for the sick. She is precise in her treatment, but can treat at any stage (On Gradualism). With open hearts, let’s seek the truth, and rejoice as our Holy Father does in the beauty of our some times chaotic unity!