On this day six years ago Jorge Borgoglio was elected as pope and began his ministry as Pope Francis.
His first words to the cardinals who elected him: “I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ and I accept.”
In case we missed this confession, a few months later in an interview he was asked: Jorge Borgoglio, who are you? His reply: “I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”
2800 years before Pope Francis and 800 years before Jesus, the prophet Jonah understood that acknowledging personal sinfulness and turning with humility to God was the key to abundant life.
Jonah was also passionate about trying to get others to understand that human sin, while a problem for us, was not a problem for a loving, merciful and generous God.
The point is clear. Sin is a tragic reality of our earthly human existence. We cannot overlook this and think that because God is a loving and merciful God there is no problem. God offers us life and we are free to accept or reject this gift.
The problem is that in our ignorance and immaturity we attach to the signs. We become immersed in and attached to the good things of this world, food, drink, sex, money, ambition as well as the great “isms” commercialism, capitalism, moralism, legalism… We grasp at these things knowing from our experience that even when we have our fill of these things they are powerless to deliver the joy they promise.
A common misunderstanding is that we think of sin as the breaking of rules instead of as the stepping out of relationship. When we strive to live in relationship with Jesus who is God-with-us we find the depth of joy and abundant life we seek.
Note that when people were attracted to the signs (miracles) of Jesus they soon lost interest when they realised that the sign required a journey into relationship. Big signs (ie physical healings) attract big crowds, but humans are made to go to where the sign is pointing and not to hold onto the signs.
It would be easy to miss first words of today’s gospel reading: “The crowds got even bigger.” You would think that this would be a preachers dream, but Jesus is not seduced by the numbers.
The signs of Jesus’ presence that we can witness every day are great. But if we live for the signs we will soon run out of puff. The invitation is to see the sign as a sign and to go where the sign is pointing, into whole-hearted relationship with Jesus who offers us abundant life.
- Offer a prayer for Pope Francis today. Invite others, especially your children and grandchildren, to pray with you for Pope Francis. A suggestion: Yesterday’s gospel asked us to use the Our Father… pray one Our Father for Pope Francis.
- Invite Jesus to reveal to you any way in which you have become attached to something which is a sign. Ask Jesus to release your grasp on this sign and stay with him as he leads you to journey with him today.