This paper intends to examine the Christology of Pope Francis through the lenses of a selection of his homilies from 2013 through 2014. In particular, I’m concerned with answering the question of what does Pope Francis believe to be the current mission of Jesus on earth.
This examination of Pope Francis’ Christology will be laid on top on the framework of liberal theology found in Albert Schweitzer’s The Quest of the Historical Jesus (1948), which found that one’s expressed understanding of Christ Jesus is often based upon their personal subjective ideas about him, rather than being based on their own objective research. Scweitzer is focused on the negative aspect of this tendency, which has been demonstrated through liberal theology since the ‘Enlightenment’.
As I will highlight below, this tendency to evangelize the Christ whom we encounter or the Christ whom we want others to encounter isn’t always as nefarious as those whom Schwetizer critiques. Rather, as I will demonstrate in the case of Pope Francis, it is true that all we have to give away is that which we have received. In this regard, we’ll see that the Homiletic Christology of Francis is based on the Christ whom he encounters through Christian living and sacred Scriptures. It is this risen Lord whom Francis desires for us all to encounter. While the Pope’s understanding of Christ may be prejudiced by a personal subjective encounter with him, because it is grounded in an authentically Catholic understanding of the Scriptures, it is trustworthy for us to consider.
2. The Sources for Examining Pope Francis’ Christology
As a source to examine Pope Francis’ Christology I’ll use the Pontiff’s homilies provided by the Vatican website;[i] first, because of their Papal status of being non-Magisterial and formal utterances of a Pontiff, and second because homiletic preaching is Pope Francis’ most frequent means of communicating with the faithful.
Indeed, similar to Pope Benedict XVI’s series of book on Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Francis’ homilies are also included in the body of ‘non-Magisterial’, yet ‘formal’ utterances. Such utterances of the Pope are part of the non-Extraordinary and non-Solemn Magisterium because they contain in them neither (1) infallible dogma, (2) definitive statements on matters closely connected with revealed truth, (3) ordinary teaching on faith and morals, and (4) ordinary prudential teaching on disciplinary matters.[ii] Yet, they are formal because every sermon preached by an accredited minister of the Catholic Church is considered to be formal. In contrast, interviews given by Catholic clerics to reporters on an airplane would be neither magisterial nor formal.
While Pope Francis’ daily, special, and Holy Day homilies are not as rigorous as Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth series, they remain to be our best source to examine the Pontiff’s Christology precisely because they are his ordinary and consistent means of communicating to the faithful. For the sake of consistency, and because only in these homilies are found Pope Francis’ unique style of transmitting his understanding of the faith, other non-Magisterial/formal utterances (e.g. Evangelii Gaudium : Apostolic Exhortation on the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World) will not be commingled or included in this examination.
It also important to note that the preaching method Pope Francis employs in his homilies is moderately Patristic in the manner in which he approaches Christology. Similar to the Fathers, Pope Francis’ Homiletic Christology is profoundly Biblical in the sense that Christ, for him, is the ultimate meaning of all the Scriptures. By moderately Patristic I intend to make the distinction in regards to the rigorous intellectual inquiry that the Fathers made in their theological method so that they might be able to prayerfully apply it to the praxis of daily Christian life, versus the emphasis that Pope Francis makes on the prayerfully application of the praxis over any rigorous intellectual inquiry.
3. The Importance of the Immediate Topic
Ever since Peter stood up with the Eleven at the first Pentecost,[iii] the preached Christology of Vicar of Christ has always played an important role in the life of the Church. Perhaps the argument could be made that ever since the emergence of the Papal Personality Cults, beginning with Pope Saint John Paul II, the preached Christology of the Pope has over-shadowed more formal and rigorous methods of communicated understanding of the person, nature, and role of Christ Jesus. Evidently, since the election of Pope Francis on March 13, 2013, his preached Christology in his homilies has been of great interest to secular media.
It is because of mainstream media’s ubiquitous parsing out of Pope Francis’ utterances and the subsequent rapid critique’s and affirmations of those same utterances in the Catholic blogosphere that more rigorous and narrow examinations of Pope Francis’ theology needs to take place. When we understand one’s beliefs, we are better enabled to understand the praxis of what they believe.
4. The Basis of Christology
The term Christology refers to that branch of Christian theology relating to the person, nature, and role of Christ Jesus. This theological examination is concerned with both the historical and the present (the risen) life of Christ Jesus. Christology, asserts Fr. Roch A. Kereszty, ought to be, an “intellectual reflection on the reality of the crucified and risen Christ who lives in his Church and, through the Holy Spirit, he himself guides the Church’s understanding of his mystery.”[iv]
Fr. Kereszty’s definition of true Christology is essential here. A ‘mystery’, in the Catholic sense, is that which can’t be fully understood by man during our pilgrimage on earth. Yet, through each generation the mysteries of the Christ continues to unfold. They unfold not through the effort of our intellect alone or through our faith alone, but, rather, through the Holy Spirit, who He Himself guides the intellect and faith of the Baptized to a better understanding that which cannot be fully understood by us.
5. The Insertion of the Liberal and Pictorial Quests for the Historical Jesus
While this process of growing in knowledge of the mystery of the Christ cannot be sped up or persuaded by the faculties of human reason alone, it has never stopped man from attempting to do so. One movement/trend at Christology, which only ended up becoming an irrational attempt to rationalize that which cannot be altogether rationalized by reason alone, was what has become generally known today as the ‘Liberal Quest for the Historical Jesus.” It is generally agreed that this quest began during the so-called ‘age of enlightenment’ at the end of the 18th century with the publication of Reimarus’ Wofenbuttel Fragments.
Hermann Samuel Reimarus (1694 – 1768) was Deist German philosopher who not only denied the supernatural origin of Christianity, but also believed that man did not need revealed religion to discover truth. Rather, he believed that it would suffice man to study nature and our own internal reality to arrive at a better knowledge of God. It would turn out that Reimarus’ most notable contribution to the ‘Enlightenment’ was his analysis of the historical Jesus in his Apologie oder Schutzschrift für die vernünftigen Verehrer Gottes (“Apology for the reasonable worshiper of God”), which he never published. Part of this work ended up being published by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing as “Fragments by an Anonymous Writer” in his Zur Geschichte und Literatur (“On the History and Literature”) in 1774-1778, and began the Liberal Quest for the Historical Jesus and the rise of the ‘historical-critical’ method of Christology.[v]
To better set the atmosphere in which the opinions of a Deist philosopher could influence centuries of writings about the life of Jesus, let us take a moment to consider Schweitzer’s remarks. He writes that prior to Reimarus, “No one had attempted to form a historical conception of the life of Jesus.”[vi] In fact, he continues, “the only Life of Jesus written prior to the time of Reimarus which has any interest for us, was composed by a Jesuit in the Persian language. The author was the Indian missionary Hieronymus Xavier, nephew of Francis Xavier, and it was designed for the use of Akbar, the Moghul Emperor, who, in the latter part of the sixteenth century, had become the most powerful potentate in Hindustan.”[vii] Schweitzer’s portrait of Reimarus’ fertile soil concludes, “Thus there had been nothing to prepare the world for a work of such power as that of Reimarus. It is true, there had appeared earlier, in 1768, a Life of Jesus by Johann Jakob Hess (1741-1828), written from the standpoint of the older rationalism, but it retains so much supernaturalism and follows so much the lines of a paraphrase of the Gospels, that there was nothing to indicate to the world what a master-stroke the spirit of the time was preparing.”[viii]
About this historical quest for Jesus of which Reimarus fired the first successful arrow, Schweitzer remarks that Jesus as a historical figure was used to promote the agenda of those who claimed to have undertaken an investigation of his life. It was not of a purely historical interest that they undertook this work; rather, it was undertaken with the goal of turning Jesus of history into a champion of their cause.
- “The grace which was revealed in our world is Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, true man and true God. He has entered our history; he has shared our journey. He came to free us from darkness and to grant us light. In him was revealed the grace, the mercy, and the tender love of the Father: Jesus is Love incarnate. He is not simply a teacher of wisdom, he is not an ideal for which we strive while knowing that we are hopelessly distant from it. He is the meaning of life and history, who has pitched his tent in our midst.”
- “In my own life, I have so often seen God’s merciful countenance, his patience; I have also seen so many people find the courage to enter the wounds of Jesus by saying to him: Lord, I am here, accept my poverty, hide my sin in your wounds, wash it away with your blood. And I have always seen that God did just this – he accepted them, consoled them, cleansed them, loved them.
“Dear brothers and sisters, let us be enveloped by the mercy of God; let us trust in his patience, which always gives us more time. Let us find the courage to return to his house, to dwell in his loving wounds, allowing ourselves be loved by him and to encounter his mercy in the sacraments. We will feel his wonderful tenderness, we will feel his embrace, and we too will become more capable of mercy, patience, forgiveness and love.”
Although this reference of mercy and forgiveness seems to fit into the mainstream media narrative about Pope Francis, it is good to note that only words that Pope Francis used more than love in his collection of homilies from 2013 and 2014 are God, Jesus, Lord, people, and Christ. In contrast, mercy only comes up in these homilies about half as many times as he mentions love, and forgiveness only appears in less than sixty occurrences. Indeed, the action of love plays a central role in what the Holy Father believes to be the ongoing mission of the risen Christ.
At this point we ought to examine how Pope Francis defines love in context of the ongoing mission of Christ so that we might better understand his use of it: Jesus is love incarnate (12/24/13); the love of God is a mystery, which reigns over us and permits us to live in serenity and hope (11/23/13); the love of God incarnate is a love which does not die, but triumphs over evil and death (10/04/13); love is the peace of Christ, which is born of the greatest love of all, the love of the cross (ibid); evangelizing means bearing personal witness to the love of God, it is overcoming our selfishness, it is serving by bending down to wash the feet of our brethren, as Jesus did (07/28/13); to be permeated by the love of Christ means to be led by the Holy Spirit and to graft one’s own life onto the tree of life, which the Lord’s Cross (07/07/13). Jesus takes upon himself the evil, filth, and sin of the world (including the sin of all of us), and he cleanses it with his blood, mercy, and love of God (03/24/13); the love of Christ lasts forever, it has no end because it is the very life of God (3/28/2014); our soul is healed and raised by the love and power of Jesus (04/06/2014); Jesus reveals the merciful and steadfast love of the Father (07/27/2014); An immense love of the Father spurs the Son to become man, to become a servant and to die for us upon a cross. Out of such love, the Father raises up his son, giving him dominion over the entire universe (09/14/2014); the love of Christ blesses, sanctifies, restores, and sustains marriages (ibid); the loves of Jesus completes, renews, and fulfills out love of all family relationships (09/28/2014).
For Pope Francis, love is both the motive and the means of the ongoing mission of Christ. There is no work of the Holy Trinity on earth without the love the Father has given the son to liberally share. Love is the bridge that reconciles the rift between the opposite extremes of those things belonging infinite space with the things belonging to finite space.
It is our calling, according to Pope Francis, which orders us to walk and to “enter ever more deeply into the mystery of the love of God, which reigns over us and permits us to live in serenity and hope.”[xiii] This calling doesn’t lead to a life or isolation or any form of detachment from world; rather, it is an active engagement in the duty to be instruments to praise God and to proclaim His Gospel, so that all may encounter Christ and build a more fraternal world.[xiv] There are three aspects of this calling that are unique to religious and consecrated persons, but applicable to all of the Baptized: (1) we are called by God; (2) called to proclaim the Gospel; and (3) called to promote the culture of encounter.
Pope Francis believes that the ongoing work of Christ on earth is to be with us; to live with us, to abide with us[xv] in all that we do for His glory. For our part, we are called to never forget that Jesus says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.”[xvi]
‘Encounter’ is the word Pope Francis uses in his homilies to narrate what happens at the moment a Christian aligns their life to be in solidarity and in mission with Jesus. For the Holy Father, the personal ‘encounter’ with Jesus occurs whenever He meets His people in their situation and pours out His mercy upon them. The very first encounter occurs at the Sacrament Baptism – our first Galilee experience (our first calling), which we must never forget”
- “In the life of every Christian, after baptism there is also another “Galilee”, a more existential “Galilee”: the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who called me to follow him and to share in his mission. In this sense, returning to Galilee means treasuring in my heart the living memory of that call, when Jesus passed my way, gazed at me with mercy and asked me to follow him. To return there means reviving the memory of that moment when his eyes met mine, the moment when he made me realize that he loved me.”[xvii]
This ‘encounter’ with Christ also opens up the door to be surprised, astonished, and filled with unbelievable joy and happiness. Whenever these encounters happen during our Christian journey sometimes makes us afraid because we can’t fully comprehend them, and because we cannot comprehend or control them, we become distrustful of the experience and begin to distance ourselves from it. Yet, it is through the observation of that fear that we must join with Saint Peter and recognize that what we have just experience is so contagious that we must shout in a proclamation the good news. It is through this intentional attempt to infect others with this Divine contagion that people are attracted to the Church:
- The encounter that propels us to proclaim the Gospel leads to discipleship. Pope Francis uses the Gospel of John’s narrative to formulate how this process occurs: [xix]
- “The two disciples encounter the Teacher and stay with him. After having encountered him, immediately they notice something new in their hearts: the need to transmit their joy to others, that they too may meet him. Andrew, in fact, meets his brother Simon and leads him to Jesus.” [xx]
- “This witness born from the joy accepted and then transformed into proclamation. It is the founding joy. Without this joy, without this glee we cannot found a Church! We cannot establish a Christian community! It is an apostolic joy, that radiates and expands.” [xviii]
Secondly, the call to proclaim the Gospel also means to listen to and to hear those to whom the Gospel is being proclaimed. To patiently listen to their dreams, their successes, their difficulties, because that is the only way we can plant the seeds that Christ Jesus demands us “to sow with care and responsibility”.[xxi]
For this reason, the proclamation of the Gospel demands the virtue of fortitude, so that we might be capable of bring the world of God into the environment in which we live. It demands that we imitate Peter and the other Apostles who when they were ordered to no longer teach in the name of Jesus “respond clearly: “We must obey God, rather than men”. And they remain undeterred even when flogged, ill-treated and imprisoned. Peter and the Apostles proclaim courageously, fearlessly, what they have received: the Gospel of Jesus . . . Faith is born from listening, and is strengthened by proclamation. But let us take a further step: the proclamation made by Peter and the Apostles does not merely consist of words: fidelity to Christ affects their whole lives, which are changed, given a new direction, and it is through their lives that they bear witness to the faith and to the proclamation of Christ.”[xxii]
Again, the Christology of the Pope Francis in regards to the ongoing work of Christ today is a very intimate and is an inseparable solidarity between the risen Christ and the ascending man. “All this is possible only if we recognize Jesus Christ, because it is he who has called us, he who has invited us to travel his path, he who has chosen us. Proclamation and witness are only possible if we are close to him.”[xxiii]
Lastly, the spread of the culture of poverty, exclusion, and rejection demands that we respond to our call to promote the culture of encounter so that the elderly, the unwanted child, the poor person on the street will have a place where they will once again know that they are human and in solidarity with everyone.[xxiv]
Therefore, because God is love, He loves us, and we have been called by Him to encounter Christ Jesus and to be His disciples and to be sent out on a joint-mission with Him to share His love with all. In his July 28, 2013 Sunday Homily for World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro Pope Francis summates his Christology in regards to the ongoing work of Christ’s joint-mission with us today in this way:
- “Jesus is calling you to be a disciple with a mission! Today, in the light of the word of God that we have heard, what is the Lord saying to us? What is the Lord saying to us? Three simple ideas: Go, do not be afraid, and serve.
- “Jesus does not treat us as slaves, but as people who are free, as friends, as brothers and sisters; and he not only sends us, he accompanies us, he is always beside us in our mission of love.
- “Where does Jesus send us? There are no borders, no limits: he sends us to everyone. The Gospel is for everyone, not just for some. It is not only for those who seem closer to us, more receptive, more welcoming. It is for everyone. Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. The Lord seeks all, he wants everyone to feel the warmth of his mercy and his love.
- “When he sent his disciples on mission, he promised: “I am with you always” (Mt 28:20). And this is also true for us! Jesus never leaves anyone alone! He always accompanies us.
- “Three ideas: Go, do not be afraid, and serve. Go, do not be afraid, and serve. If you follow these three ideas, you will experience that the one who evangelizes is evangelized, the one who transmits the joy of faith receives more joy.”
By searching out the most used keywords and themes in Pope Francis’ homilies from 2013 and 2014, I have found that Pope Francis does not seem to be very interested in engaging in a homiletic search or a proclamation of the Historical Jesus, such as we witnessed with his predecessor. To the contrary, the aspect of Christology that the Holy Father is deeply immersed in is a search for the ongoing work and mission of Christ in the life of the Church today. What is Jesus doing right now in the life of the individual Christian and the Church community that will facilitate the salvation of many? That is the question that Pope Francis’ homilies are best fit to answer according to his own experience and encounter with risen Lord.
In his book in The Quest of the Historical Jesus Albert Schweitzer demonstrated that Christ Jesus who people tend to proclaim is the Christ Jesus who they agree with and who they want others to encounter. The history of artistic depictions of Jesus also inform us that the Christ Jesus who people paint and carve is the Christ Jesus who their senses and reason agree with and who they want others to identify with as well.
How does Pope Francis’ homiletic Christology respond to the negative aspect of Schweitzer’s findings and to the ugly side of people promoting or using a self-identified ‘face’ of Christ for the purpose of raising the supremacy of one race over another?
By grounding his Christology in the sacred Scriptures as the Church fathers did, Pope Francis demonstrates that even though we all encounter Christ Jesus differently, the vital thing is that we discover how to root that discovery in the Scriptures, and then proclaim it to as many people as the Holy Spirit propels us to proclaim it to.
In his very first homily as the Vicar of Christ (“Miss Pro Ecclesia) on March 14, 2013 at the Sistine Chapel, Pope Francis said it this way:
- “When we journey without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly: we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.”
[i] See: http://m.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies.html#homilies
[ii] Marie, André. “The Four Kinds of Magisterial Statement and the Various Responses Catholics Owe to Each.” Catholicism.Org. Saint Benedict Center, 10 Nov. 2007. Web. 31 Mar. 2015. <http://catholicism.org/the-four-kinds-of-magisterial-statement-and-the-various-responses-catholics-owe-to-each.html>. See also: Marie, André. “The Three Levels of Magisterial Teaching.” 3 Jan. 2008. Web. 31 Mar. 2015. < http://brotherandre.stblogs.com/2007/11/10/the-three-levels-of-magisterial-teaching/>
[iii] Cf. Acts 2:14-41.
[iv] Kereszty, Roch A. Jesus Christ: Fundamentals of Christology. Rev. and Updated ed. New York: Alba House, 2002. Xv. Print.
[v] Schweitzer, Albert (2015-02-24). The Quest of the Historical Jesus (Kindle Locations 326-327). Philosophical Library/Open Road. Kindle Edition.
[vi] Schweitzer, Albert (2015-02-24). The Quest of the Historical Jesus (Kindle Locations 308-309). Philosophical Library/Open Road. Kindle Edition.
[vii] Schweitzer, Albert (2015-02-24). The Quest of the Historical Jesus (Kindle Locations 318-320). Philosophical Library/Open Road. Kindle Edition.
[viii] Schweitzer, Albert (2015-02-24). The Quest of the Historical Jesus (Kindle Locations 324-327). Philosophical Library/Open Road. Kindle Edition.
[ix] Schweitzer, Albert (2015-02-24). The Quest of the Historical Jesus (Kindle Locations 127-133). Philosophical Library/Open Road. Kindle Edition.
[x] Rev. 1:13-16.
[xi] 1 Cor. 11:14.
[xii] 1 Cor 15:8.
[xiii] Address of Pope Francis at the Rite of Acceptance into the Catechumenate and Meeting with Catechumens at the Closing of the Year of Faith, Vatican Basilica, November 23, 2013.
[xiv] Cf. Homily of Pope Francis during the Apostolic Journey to Rio De Janerio on the Occasion of the XXVIII World Youth Day, Mass with Bishops, Priest, Religious and Seminarian, Cathedral of San Sebastian, Rio de Janero, July 27, 2013.
[xv] Cf. Jn 15:4.
[xvi] Jn. 15:16.
[xvii] Homily of Pope Francis on Easter Vigil, Vatican Basilica, Holy Saturday, April 19, 2014.
[xviii] Homily of Pope Francis for the Thanksgiving Mass for the canonization of Saint Jose de Anchieta, Professed Priest of the Society of Jesus, Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Camp Marzio, Rome, April 24, 2014.
[xix] Earlier in the Homily, Pope Francis refers to the Catechumes as those who have listened to those who have spoken to you about Jesus and suggested that you follow Him by becoming His disciples through the Sacrament of Baptism.
[xx] Address of Pope Francis at the Rite of Acceptance into the Catechumenate and Meeting with Catechumens at the Closing of the Year of Faith, Vatican Basilica, November 23, 2013.
[xxi] Homily of Pope Francis during the Apostolic Journey to Rio De Janerio on the Occasion of the XXVIII World Youth Day, Mass with Bishops, Priest, Religious and Seminarian, Cathedral of San Sebastian, Rio de Janero, July 27, 2013.
[xxii] Homily of Pope Francis on the Third Sunday of Easter, Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls, April 14, 2013.
[xxiii] Homily of Pope Francis during the Apostolic Journey to Rio De Janerio on the Occasion of the XXVIII World Youth Day, Mass with Bishops, Priest, Religious and Seminarian, Cathedral of San Sebastian, Rio de Janero, July 27, 2013.
[xxiv] Homily of Pope Francis on the Third Sunday of Easter, Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls, April 14, 2013.
- “But it was not only each epoch that found its reflection in Jesus; each individual created Him in accordance with his own character. There is no historical task which so reveals a man’s true self as the writing of a Life of Jesus. No vital force comes into the figure unless a man breathes into it all the hate or all the love of which he is capable. The stronger the love, or the stronger the hate, the more life-like is the figure which is produced. For hate as well as love can write a Life of Jesus, and the greatest of them are written with hate: that of Reimarus, the Wolfenbüttel Fragmentist, and that of David Friedrich Strauss. It was not so much hate of the Person of Jesus as of the supernatural nimbus with which it was so easy to surround Him, and with which He had in fact been surrounded. They were eager to picture Him as truly and purely human, to strip from Him the robes of splendour with which He had been apparelled, and clothe Him.”[ix]
In his homily on the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, given at the Vatican Basilica on December 24, 2013 Pope Francis clearly distinguishes himself from liberal critical-historical method theologians in saying:
Those in the Liberal Quest for the Historical Jesus reduced Jesus to being simply that; a teacher of wisdom in a long line of other teachers very similar to him, but Pope Francis better situates Jesus in history as the source and meaning of our life who dwells with us. While Schweitzer was arguing from what had been written about the historical Jesus of Nazareth during the ‘Enlightenment’, what he didn’t seem to consider is what had been painted and carved by men early on who may have been attempting to do something, perhaps, less nefarious.
There is nothing in the New Testament that explicitly informs us about what Jesus looked like. We don’t even know what His mother Mary looked like to be able to draw even the most basic conclusions about facial features that He may have inherited from His mother. Outside of the “was like” symbolic language of Revelation,[x] the closest thing we get to countering the image of a the long-haired Jesus is when Paul writes to the Church of Corinth, “Does not nature itself teach you if a man wears his hair long it is a disgrace to him?”[xi] Having had received a visit from the risen Christ Jesus Himself[xii] and knowing people who were Apostles and disciples of the Lord, you’d think Paul wouldn’t write this if Jesus had worn his hair long.
Notwithstanding any basis for being able to create an accurate image of Jesus, for nearly two thousand years images of Jesus has almost always tended to be depicted as having the same ethnic characteristics that are very similar to the artist and to the culture in which the image had been created. Therefore, perhaps there seems to be something more basic in play in our historical reinventions of the face of Christ.
Whether it was the early images of Jesus being depicted as a fish or an anchor by Pre-Nicene era Christians, or as man with particular Aryan, Nordic (i.e. non-Semitic features) by Nazis in the 19th century, images of Christ have always been employed as a unique method to portray the historical and the present (the risen) life of Christ Jesus. That is to say, that these images have always played a role in communicating and forming our understanding of the mystery of Jesus (Christology), even if some of those images were created intentionally for the purpose of pushing an agenda in the same way that written Liberal Quest for the Historical Jesus had done.
This less nefarious side of the quest for the historical Jesus points to something very basic and primordial about human nature; that, self-identification and evangelizing that self-identification with God is essential to our survival. Since the beginning, humankind has attempted to resolve the gulf between themselves and their Creator by somehow bringing God down to our rational levels. Whether it was the gods that looked like us or the demigods that were partly like us, man has had an insatiable craving to imitate Eve, and be ‘like’ God.
Therefore, it served as almost a form of cosmic comedy that the God who man had always crafted into images that he could relate to actually took on the flesh, was born of woman, and became man, so that we might be conformed to His image and become one with God.
There have been and there will be those whom Schweitzer critiques, who would spend their life being completely unsatisfied with the God who revealed His solidarity with us. They would much rather recreate a god who identifies with their need to press their own agenda than love a God who identifies with their need for salvation.
Then there are those people, such as Pope Francis who have come to identify with the Christ who they discovered through a devout praxis of the faith and wish to communicate to us the way of that praxis so that we too might encounter and identity with the same risen Lord. In other words, the Jesus who Pope Francis gives away is the only Jesus who he has received.
While Pope Francis may have an agenda, such as all evangelist of the Gospel may, the difference is that his agenda isn’t contrary to the agenda of the Holy Trinity, nor is the image of Christ that he is promoting contrary to the images of Him in sacred Scripture.
6. The Ongoing Mission of Christ According to Pope Francis
The Christology of Pope Francis in regards to the ongoing mission of Christ Jesus is centered on this formula; that because God is who God is (that is, Love), He loves us, and because He loves us He has called us to encounter Christ Jesus and to become His disciples. It is out of this love, encounter, and calling that we are, thereby, sent on a joint-mission with Him to share His love with all.
The successor of Saint Peter doesn’t have a whole lot to say about himself in his homilies from 2013 and 2014, but the one time he does draw from his own life in his Second Sunday of Easter homily on April 7, 2013, it allows us peek into how he identifies with Christ, and how he desires us to make that same identification: