Here is a quote from Pope John Paul I (Papa Luciani) taken from the book A Passionate Adventure. (The book is translated and edited by Lori Pieper, OFS.) Luciani is speaking about the coming of Jesus in his Christmas homily in 1961. Even though this homily was preached 53 years before the pontificate of Pope Francis, Luciani echoes the themes Francis is now teaching us. In so many ways, Papa Luciani was a herald of what was to come after him, indeed is being lived out in his successors.
Here is the quote:
Why then is he master of the world? What system is he using now? That is the word, it is really a new system. Jesus wants to introduce a new mentality from his first appearance. There are enough of those who become great by posing and strutting. It is now that we are going against the current.
Bethlehem is the real “new style” and the “style” will be continued……I repeat: he wanted to introduce a new style, a new climate. Once the climate has been introduced, the teachings come.
It is well known that our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has introduced a new “style” to the papacy, a style which causes concern and anxiety among some, especially those who tend to favor a certain posture or walk of faith (“posing and strutting” to use Luciani’s words). But as Luciani said earlier in the same homily, Jesus could have come to save us through a birth as a rich man with an easier life, with evident ministerial success, and a triumphant return to his Father. Instead, Jesus the Son of God chose the hard way, a way of poverty, a life of toil, apparent failure, and death on a cross. Why? So that we could identify with him more fully; so he could say he was one with us in all things but sin.
When will we learn this lesson? Pope Francis is making it evident we must learn it and accept it. When will we see the royal road to heaven being the path of lowliness, humility and self-giving? When will we see real richness as laying in poverty of spirit?
Too many of us are like Peter, who even in his well intentioned protest that death should not touch his Lord Jesus, a protest that earned him a strident reprimand, was not able to grasp the new climate and style introduced by Jesus Christ.
How blessed we are to be baptized into this climate, style, way of living. It is the way of the Paschal Mystery, the way chosen by Jesus Christ the Son of God.