Many of the headlines about Pope Francis miss a central idea: If Christ is at the center of your life, it is a different kind of life; it is other-centered, it is mission-oriented, it leads you to the peripheries and is intolerant of indifference.
This is not new. But it is a reality that our dominant culture has decidedly, increasingly ignored.
Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Sales. Purchases. The image of the Magnificat Day of Faith in Philadelphia was Rembrandt's "Head of Christ," at the city's Museum of Art. "The entire canvas is covered in a dark brown background, like the shadow of sin that engulfs all humankind," Magnificat president Pierre-Marie Dumont reflects. "Then, from the very core of this abyss emerges a gentle light that warms without burning, that illuminates without blinding, that consoles without condemning," he continues. "Thus, from the heart of sin, grace flows forth."
Such a worldview is a matter of faith, but it's also a pillar that buttresses and enhances our democratic republic, culture and civilization. Pope Francis's ode to the joy of the Gospel was issued on the same day that the Supreme Court agreed to hear the plea of the Green family, owners of the Hobby Lobby chain of stores, to protect religious liberty and conscience rights in the business world. Heaven knows we need good people in business.
"Do not be afraid" is a constant papal refrain. Would you rather live afraid of who might walk into your life and tear it down, or would you rather live with the joy that hope, a purposeful existence and a merciful Creator makes possible? This should be easy to choose. The alternative is to keep the world in a darkness that Christmas lights only mask, if the holiday is only about things purchased with cash or a credit card, instead of perpetual, unmistakable gratitude.
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