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  • Writer's pictureRoss Moughtin

Jesus and no red shoes

Which size of red shoes would the new Pope be wearing? A Vatican official was being interviewed on preparations for electing the new Pope. Just to be on the safe side he had commissioned three different sizes of red shoes. I thought at the time “Get a life!” As did Jorge Mrio Bergoglio - who on becoming Pope Francis declared: “The carnival is over.” In fact, just before he left Buenos Aires for Rome, Cardinal Bergoglio, was wearing a pair of shoes so shabby that friends insisted on buying him a new pair! He is still wearing them. Clearly this new Pope is his own man with a passion for Jesus. In his very first homily Pope Francis talked about walking in the presence of Jesus Christ and the importance of welcoming him into our lives. “Stimulated by the year of faith, all together, pastors and faithful, we will make an effort to respond faithfully to the eternal mission: to bring Jesus Christ to humanity, and to lead humanity to an encounter with Jesus Christ: the Way, the Truth and the Life, truly present in the church and, at the same time, in every person.” He continued: “This encounter makes us become new men in the mystery of Grace, provoking in our hearts the Christian joy that is a hundredfold that given us by Christ to those who welcome him into their lives.” It is this passion for Jesus which motives his concern for the poor and more, his determination to reach out to those who do not know the love and forgiveness of God. No doubt he will experience his own passion as a result. On the Radio 4 news this morning was a piece on his interview for La Civilta Cattolica. Pope Francis commented that the Catholic Church is too focused on preaching about abortion, gay people and contraception and needs to become more merciful. "We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel." For all church leaders there can be a tension between proclaiming Christ and upholding moral values. Of course, we have a moral imperative and through love we should advocate ethical values but what Pope Francis is saying is that sharing the living Christ comes first, everything else is secondary. (The grandchildren have just arrived for breakfast before school – won’t be long) (Right, where were we?) Our own Archbishop Justin recognised this tension when addressing the Evangelical Alliance earlier this month. While he clearly supports the traditional view of marriage as shown by his vote in the House of Lords, Justin admitted that “we have to face the fact that the vast majority of people under 35 think not only that what we are saying is incomprehensible but also think that we are plain wrong and wicked and equate it to racism and other forms of gross and atrocious injustice.” We need to make sure that sharing Jesus is not eclipsed by our moral teaching. “We preach Christ and him crucified.” He is our message. I was impressed by the Southport Community Church who some years ago put on a Cannon and Ball show at Edge Hill, featuring the comedy double act. They were reaching out in Christ’s name to those people who would not normally darken the door of any church. At the bottom of the poster were the words in large print: “Licensed bar.”

Not something which their church membership would normally approve – most come from a teetotal background. But they could see the priority of welcoming those fans of C&B who would be more at home propping up the bar, the very kind of people which Jesus enjoyed meeting. John the Baptist surprisingly lost his confidence in Jesus. From prison he sends some of his disciples to Jesus with the question 'Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?' (Luke 7:20). (Pause to say goodbye to Kate and Tess as Jacqui takes them to school)

Why this change of mind? It would seem that Jesus did not fit with his cousin’s expectations for a Messiah. He was relaxed on fasting, he sat light to Sabbath observance but most of all he enjoyed the company of sinners, all varieties. John knew that Jesus had a reputation for being a glutton and a drunkard. (Matthew 11:19) So Jesus responds: “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” That’s our key task – to proclaim the good news to the poor, whatever it takes. Even with dirty shoes. To quote Daniel Thambyrajah Niles, just one beggar telling the other beggars where the food is.

(Apologies for the interruptions.)

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