Saturday, March 22, 2014

Pope's Homily on March 21: Misuse of the Gospel

Pope Francis warned against those who use the gospel to support their interests, their ideologies and their theologies. The message came during an original interpretation of the familiar parable of the wicked husbandmen at the March 21 homily at St. Martha's guesthouse. He said the evil men who killed the owner's agents, and finally his son represented "the tragedy of [the Pharisees] and our tragedy, too!"

The homily seemed to say that the vineyard was the Word of God, which evil men of all ages wish to make their own to serve their own selfish interests. Yet in so doing, they "kill" the power of God. Christians do this when they are "not open to the newness of the Word of God," and "are not obedient to the Word of God."

The Pope stressed humility and prayer to achieve docility to the Word of God, and warned them to "not cage the Holy Spirit."

Source: EWTN

The Bear's Interpretation

The parable of the wicked husbandmen has always been interpreted two ways.

The "literal" interpretation is a recapitulation of Jewish history, as Israel is frequently described as a vineyard in the Old Testament. The agents the owner sends are the prophets, who were often treated shamefully. The son is, of course Jesus, and herein Christ predicts (and provokes) his passion. The owner -- God -- takes away the vineyard from the Jews and gives it to another people, that is, the Gentiles.

The moral (or "tropological") sense is that we must respond to God's repeated offers of grace, or we will be no better than the wicked husbandmen, and will be condemned by our Judge.

Pope Francis' emphasis, however, is on the motive for the violence of the wicked husbandmen. They want to possess the vineyard as their own. We must not use the Word of God as a tool to promote our own selfish interests, to "steal" it. We must conform ourselves to the Gospel. Catholics have always been taught this. Certainly, by speaking of ideologies and theologies the Pope cannot be hinting at any uncoupling of the Word of God from the Church's teachings contained in her historical consensus nor a criticism of Catholics who follow them.

Who uses Holy Scripture outside of the Church's unique authority to interpret them, and seeks to "possess" them according to their private interpretations and theologies? The only possible answer is those who have separated themselves from the Church: both formally, as have Protestants, and practically, such as those who wish to change the Church's teachings.

So what do you think? Is the Bear properly understanding the Pope's homily or not? He would love to hear your opinion.


  1. My opinion - which will be of no help at all - is that it is imposssible to know what the proper understanding of the Holy Father's homily is because these days, without painstaking precision in explaining exactly what he thinks conforming oneself to the Gospel and to the Word of God entails, Francis might just as well be preaching to the birds.

    Reliable Ray of Sunshine

  2. You win the Bear's Gold Star of the Day! [star.jpg] (use your imagination, we operate on a shoestring budget here).

    And this is the problem with Pope Francis. We still don't know where he's coming from. Is he warning us not to be traditionalists, who hijack the Word of God to promote their ideology? (He has called it an "ideology" in the past, after all.) Conservatives who try to cram their peculiar views down everyone's throats using scripture? (E.g. On the sanctity of marriage.) Liberation theology types? His buddy Bishop Tony Palmer that excited your maternal instincts so effectively? :-) Once you depart from the historical consensus of the Church or fail to spell out where and why you are departing, you lose the common language of the Church. So now WE get to say what he really means!

  3. I echo Jane. I have no idea whether Francis is targeting Catholics for Common Good & Catholics for Choice, or SSPX or the Acton Institute. Note I cited your link, however, with a post about the "catholic" left at work. I in truth don't have confidence that Francis thinks such Catholics are misusing the gospel.

  4. You get the Bear's Gold Star of the Day, too, Pete. 🌟 (Sorry, Jane, I know Pete's is nicer, but this is a WIP.)


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