This past week, Pope Francis has been attending the World Youth Day is Argentina. World Youth Day is a creation of Pope John Paul II and it brings the youth of the world together in one place for a variety of spiritual reasons. I guess you could call this Pope Francis’ first real public appearance.
Since his election he has been breaking down walls in a very entrenched institution. He has thrown off the palace for more humble rooms, and he does not use the Pope Mobile. Some have said that he was elected to reform a Church that, like the Orthodox Church, does not react to change well. I guess the Church, and the world, is going to have to get used to change.
In a recent speech to the youth gathered with him in Argentina, Pope Francis called them to make a mess of their diocese. He called them to go into the streets and preach their faith and to shake things up. He used the phrase, “Faith is Revolution” and he asked them if they were ready to join his revolution.
Francis’ message has been very different from the previous two Popes who have focused their attention on morality, especially sexual morality and how we live. Francis has shifted the message to Social Justice and how we live out the faith. I don’t really see this a radical departure from the last two, but the message now is we have to put our faith in action and take it outside of the walls of the church into the streets.
But what of this revolution that Francis is calling for?
When Jesus began His ministry He was calling His followers to a radical change in their faith. Faith was not to be external but internal, personal, transforming our lives into a life of sanctification. In the Orthodox world we call this process Theosis, the process of transforming our lives, from the inside, and to become, what some call gods. St. Athanasius of Alexandria wrote that God became man so that man could become god. That is the revolution.
Faith sets us free, not from our earthly bonds but from the bonds of sin. I have written about this before, Jesus never challenged the political reality of the day. He never said that keeping His people in bondage was wrong, in other words, Jesus did not come to free us physically from what binds us, He came to spiritually free us from what binds us. This He did, because none of this matters, the earthly, for it will all pass away. Faith is revolution because faith calls us to what the world does not want us to be.
We change lives, we evangelize by living the life that we are called to live and it is not easy. It is not easy for young people to turn away from sex outside of marriage, to turn away from the use of contraception, to live lives of prayer and service to others. We live in a very self-centered world where we are taught that we, the individual, is the only thing that matters. Faith requires action, action not for us, but action for others.
It is my belief that what Francis is calling the youth of the world too is not a physical, pick up your gun, type of revolution, but a spiritual fight against the Evil One type of revolution. We fight Evil by doing good, we fight Evil, not by legislation but by changing hearts and minds one person at a time.
We, as Christians, should not look to the government to do our job for us. We, as Christians, need to roll up ourselves and get to work, outside the Walls of the Church. That’s the revolution that Francis is calling for, the Revolution where we take the transforming power of the Love of Christ to those who need it the most, the poor and marginalized in our society, those who have no voice, we need to be their voice but at the same time we need to be the hands and feet of Christ.
We need to care for the poor but it needs to be more than just giving them bread that is easy. We need a great conversation about the root cause of poverty. We need a great conversation about the root cause of hunger in the world. Fixing the leak in the roof from the inside of the house will work for a short period of time, but then the problem returns. Yes we need to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, but we also need to discuss the root cause of all of this, that is the revolution, that is the call and the duty of the Church!
Francis’ call to the youth of the world was simple, shake things up! Jesus shook things up when He ministered here on earth, and He transformed the world but He started with 12. He transformed those 12 and they, with the help of the Holy Spirit, transformed the world. It is time for us to move outside of the walls of the Church and get to work.