Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

My e mails have been flooded with the one question: “Did you see what the pope said?”  Of course one of the great hazards of being professional historians is that members of our trade have the annoying habit of wanting to see the text and not the commentary.  Now I’ve found lots of commentary and when I see the text, the pope’s message recounts what is spoken of in today’s gospel reading.
Go and learn the meaning of the words,
I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
What surprises me is that some presume that call to be faithful to this message has only been recently invigorated. The idea that a pontiff would admonish to the Church to be more Christ like is no surprise–popes have been doing it for years. For example one would hardly perceive a “change in course” if you would read Pope John Paul II’s Dives in Misericordia (The Father of all Mercies) or Pope Benedict XVI’s Deus Caritas Est, (God is Love)  These works, like so many other papal writings, recall the church’s fundamental mission as continuing the work of Christ. That each pope would articulate this truth in a different way simply reflects the virtue of diversity. Not all ways of speaking appeal to all people. What does appeal is God’s desire for mercy and compassion, a message proclaimed by the Church for centuries.

September 21st, 2013