On Friday, TIME magazine continued its love affair with our Holy Father with a brief web post entitled “Pope Francis Has Taught the Catholic Church to Thrive Again.” The writer attributes this assertion to three characteristics of Pope Francis’s leadership: he leads with mercy, authentic joy, and humility. As a result, the writer asserts, “Pope Francis has made it cool to be Christian again. His pontificate is allowing the world to rediscover the great contribution of faith to culture and civic society.”
This seems to be a popular perspective these days. It also ignores that Jesus led with repentance and told us multiple times that following Him in this world would be decidedly uncool.
After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15).
“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:18-20).
The post also asserts, “Mercy is God’s most beautiful attribute.” It then goes on to conflate said mercy with God’s defining attribute — love — ignoring the fact that God’s love for us also includes free will and justice. Perhaps this focus has some appeal for the writer, whose TIME bio included the fact that he “helped lead national Catholic outreach for President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.”
Of course, we are all sinners and God’s mercy extends to each of us — provided we lead with repentance.