Jesus Christ, a carpenter’s son, asked his followers to love the enemies. Though he didn’t accept divorce and sin, he embraced the divorcee and the sinner. Though he was the son of God (Christians believe so), he had to endure the worst form of punishment on a cross. He appointed the unlearned, impulsive Peter to be head of the Church. Pope Francis is the 266th successor of Peter. The conservatives and the liberals, believers and non-believers find him a contradiction – may be for entirely opposite reasons. Is he called to maintain the status-quo or should he be radical and a sign of contradiction to fit the shoes of his post.
When Jorge Bergoglio (later Pope Francis) appeared on the balcony of St Peter’s Church in Rome on the 13th of March, 2013, he asked the audience to pray for him before he blesses them. Instead of staying in the apostolic palaces, he decided to stay along with the Curia officials in simpler lodgings. When asked about the homosexuals, he commented, “Who am I to judge?” Instead of honouring the Bishops of established dioceses with Cardinal hats, he goes to the ends of the world to find them. He encourages the bishops to speak openly without the fear of papal censure during the Synod of Bishops. He welcomes refugees to the papal state of Vatican City, exhorting religious and political leaders to do their bit for them. Finally as a Jesuit (as many Jesuits felt), I felt a strange when we heard the term Jesuit Pope (though there are no technical problems).
We live in a post-modern world (Jean Francois Lyotard would call post modernism as the incredulity towards metanarratives). Michael Foucault, another postmodern philosopher would say, “I am no prophet, my job is making windows where there were walls”. Pope Francis tries to engage with this culture when he gives sufficient importance to the process of arriving at the decision rather than a black and white answer for all problems. Another philosopher Derrida would say, “Certain readers resented me when they could no longer recognize their territory, their institutions”. Ones who fit in the bill of Derrida’s certain readers resented aggressively against the contradictions of Pope. If Contradictions are preferred over minimalism in post-modern architecture, billing of the label of being a contradiction is flowing with the culture of the time.
Youngsters of the present day falls into line with basic post-modernist thinking. It is about experience over reason, subjectivity over objectivity, spirituality over religion, images over words, outward over inward. Pope Francis displays the sign of radical tension between the extremes in his life and teachings not just to imitate the culture, but to follow Jesus who was a radical revolutionary for the sake of the people (importance to people over Sabbath).
Being authentic is possible only if you are a contradiction for the well-being of humanity. Mother Theresa would say, “Don’t be afraid to be a sign of contradiction”. Pope, Francis lives out these contradictions in his life to inculturate Gospels for our own times.