If I were a Roman Catholic I think I would be really proud right about now. I think the new Pope has set a good example of what it means to be a follower of Jesus: to be a servant of all.
But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Matthew 20:25-28 ESV)
This new Pope seems to have rejected the luxuries that previous Popes have embraced in favor of showing himself to be on equal footing with others. Peggy Noonan notes several things that point to the humility of Pope Francis:*
- His plain regalia as he stood on the balcony
- Request for crowd to pray for him before he prayed for them
- Loves the poor and even gave the cardinal’s palace in Buenos Aires to a missionary order that had no money
- Lives in an apartment
- Cooks his own food
- Rides the bus
- Picks up his own luggage
- Pays his own hotel bill
- Shuns security
- Refuses a limousine
- Gets on a minibus with the cardinals
- Visits a church in a modest car in rush hour traffic
- Greeted the people before greeting the Vatican officials and staffers following his election
- Reportedly refuses to sit on a throne and meets his fellow cardinals standing
Many people seem to be hoping for change with this new Pope and I think change is exactly what they’re going to get, though perhaps not the change they are hoping for. The new Pope will probably not institute any progressive reforms or change the church’s stance on gay marriage, abortion, or contraception; this is not the change Catholicism needs.
The change Catholicism needs is a change of heart and mind, and I think the new Pope is quite capable of instituting this change if he continues being the servant that he seems to have been his entire life. It seems to this Protestant that for too long the Roman Church has communicated (whether intentionally or not) that it is superior to the people and its job is to rule over the people and the people are to serve them. This is a reversal of the order that Jesus intended for His followers. Jesus called His disciples to be servants of all, just as He was a servant of all and laid down His life for all.
If the Roman Church can embody this simple principle of servanthood it will bring some long overdue change to Roman Catholicism. People need to see Rome as interested in serving them rather than ruling over them. Once this change happens I think people will begin to see and embrace the God that Rome has over zealously protected these many years. They will begin to see that Jesus came to give life to His followers, not to scare or force them into obeying His teachings with the threat of eternal damnation. Pope Francis seems to understand this.
My hope and prayer is that Pope Francis continues what appears to be a great example of servanthood and that his example permeates throughout the Roman Church. Like it or not the Roman Church is the face of Christianity in the west, and a well received and appreciated Roman Church is good for the rest of western Christendom; we are yolked to them whether we like it or not.
*My apologies if you have issues viewing Noonan’s article. If you cannot view it please let me know.