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home : opinion : opinion May 29, 2016

12/19/2013 12:18:00 PM
Merry Christmas
Bill Forhan

Rush Limbaugh missed the point last week when he criticized Pope Francis latest exhortation, "The Joy of the Gospel." Like many conservatives Limbaugh focused on his humanist view that the Pope was promoting a Marxist agenda by decrying the Capitalist System.
The reality Pope Francis was using his discourse to challenge Christians to develop a healthier relationship with Jesus Christ. In the opening paragraph Pope Francis says, "The great danger in today's world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience." Pope Francis is calling on the faithful to recognize the good news of the gospel in reaching out to a hurting world.
In the very beginning he offers this, "I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: 'Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction'".
The message from the newest leader of the Catholic world is that Jesus calls us to a more intimate relationship with him and with our fellow human beings. Being our brother's keeper is not just about a dispassionate system of caring for the needy and hurting among us. It is about reaching out personally to recognize the pain of others and to take personal responsibility for giving them real hope.
As we celebrate the birth of Jesus could there be any better time for the Pope to exhort Christians about the true meaning of Christ's ministry? From Jesus humble birth to unlikely parents, in a manner that should have resulted in his mother being stoned to death, God turns the event into a life altering story of hope. Pope Francis in his own inspiring way has taken the initiative to breath new life into the mission of his church by calling us to be mindful of that hope and to share it.
It has been written that this single life has done more to change the world than all the armies that have ever marched or all of the kings that have ever reigned. Jesus ministry lasted only a few short years and his message brought much discomfort to those who considered themselves the appointed messengers of God in the world. His teachings still bring much discomfort among those of us who consider ourselves faithful followers, because Jesus call is not about which economic system best relieves our "blunted conscience."
Being a follower of Christ is about what each of us has done to change our heart and recognize the poor and needy among us. It's about learning to recognize that poverty is not just economic but also spiritual poverty. Pope Francis' message is about learning to share the gospel in ways that offer true hope to those in need.
On a more personal level, I am reminded how we as Christians react to those who want to take the Christ out of Christmas. The spiritually poor who insist on "Happy Holidays" or object to any expressions of faith on the basis of "separation of church and state." We must learn to recognize them for their "spiritual poverty," or their open rebellion against faith.
As one angry, self proclaimed atheist said last week, "I don't care if I offend you." Christians need to remember that such anger is clearly an irrational response from someone who declares there is no God. We can only offer up a prayer that God will find a way to give his life a new horizon of hope.
As for me, I will continue to offend the spiritually challenged by wishing them a truly blessed and yes, Merry Christmas.

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