A Culture of Encounter

I wrote yesterday about the passage in Mark’s Gospel in which Jesus’ disciples complain that someone who is no one of them is casting out demons in Jesus’ name. Pope Francis spoke even more broadly (well, and also far more eloquently) on this passage in his homily yesterday.

The Pope characterized the disciples’ as “a little intolerant,” convinced as they were that “those who do not have the truth, cannot do good.” He explained “This was wrong . . . Jesus broadens the horizon.”

Everyone has the ability to do good, because that ability is rooted in our creation:

The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him. Instead, this ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God. That we can kill in the name of God. And that, simply, is blasphemy. To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy.

Not only are we all created in God’s image, and thus each given in the depths of our heart the commandment to do good, but all of us are redeemed by Jesus, not only those belonging to a particular club. The Pope continued:

The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.

Doubtless Pope Francis’ words will be a challenge to many people. But a lot of what he has said so far in his papacy has been challenging – for all of us.