Hold your horses, Huffington Post.The Pope did not just change the doctrine of the Catholic church.
Protestants… take a deep breath before you point fingers and claim that Catholics believe you have to work your way into heaven and that Pope Francis just said so.
Are we calmed down? Good. Let’s take a look at what Pope Francis actually said in his homily earlier today.
To borrow a line from The Princess Bride: “I do not think it means what you think it means.”
First and foremost, Pope Francis issued a challenge to Catholics: don’t look at non-Catholics and assume the worst of them. We, as Catholics, he said are not the only ones capable of doing good in the world. Rather, all humanity was created in the image of God and, as such, has the capacity for good. The apostles spoke in judgment of those who were not of their fold. Don’t do that, Pope Francis said. You are not the judge of their heart.
Second, he issued a challenge to the unbelieving world: whether you believe it or not, Christ died for you! The sacrifice of Christ was intended to be universal, covering all sins. It was a gift given freely and intended for all. That is not to say that all allow themselves, in faith, to receive the gift.
Finally, a challenge for all humanity: stop dividing yourselves into categories of the believers and unbelievers. The body of Christ was never intended to be a clique, separated from the world. Whether we are believers in Christ or not, all of us are capable of love and some measure of good because we are created in God’s image and God is love. We are called to focus on what binds us, to put the nasty rhetoric aside and celebrate what makes us human.
In the words of Jesus, the thief comes to “steal, kill and destroy.” This is exactly what he’s doing in the vitriolic debates that rage in the comment boxes between Christians and atheists (and sometimes other Christians). The goal, Pope Francis says, in focusing on our common good is to “make that culture of encounter.”
I’ll let the man speak for himself:
“We all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”