Luke 14:10-11 (NASB) 10 “But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. 11 “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be
Humility is a good thing to the Lord. The Scripture leaves us little question about that. 1 Peter 5:5 (NASB) “… clothe yourselves with humility toward one another for God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Check the papal-chair in the above picture. Does it look like a chair for the humble or the proud? A chair for someone who “clothes [himself] with humility” or a chair for the exalted and lifted up? It is the Pope’s chair — and, it is empty!
This past week, Pope Francis was a no-show at a gala event where he was the guest of honor. The event was scheduled prior to his election in March, and was attended by the rich and famous, except in this case, they happened to be cardinals and Italian dignitaries.
“It took us by surprise,” said one Vatican source on Monday. “We are still in a period of growing pains. He is still learning how to be pope and we are still learning how he wants to do it.” The article continued, “The prelates, assured that health was not the reason for the no-show, looked disoriented, realising that the message he wanted to send was that, with the Church in crisis, he – and perhaps they – had too much pastoral work to do to attend social events.”
The day before the concert, Francis said bishops should be “close to the people” and not have “the mentality of a prince.” Imagine the adjustment that is going on at the Vatican. One source reports, “Since his election on March 13, Francis, the former cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, has not spent a single night in the opulent and spacious papal apartments. He has preferred to live in a small suite in a busy Vatican guest house, where he takes most meals in a communal dining room and says Mass every morning in the house chapel rather than the private papal chapel in the Apostolic Palace.
Does that sound like the Catholic Church that you know? Absent of the pomp and “vestments” intended to “excite the viewer into good thoughts and to increase devotion in those who see and those who use them”? Doesnt sound like Pope Francis got the memo on how to “increase devotion” by the outfit he wears or the chair he sits in. Another interesting item was the report that Pope Francis had performed an impromptu exorcism as he exited a bishop’s conference. In the report, a “man who appears to be a priest leans forward and explains something to the pope, at which point Pope Francis places both of his hands on the man’s head. The man soon appears to become agitated, breaths heavily, twitches slightly and sinks a bit lower in his wheelchair.”
And what is my point? When Pope Francis models the humility of our Lord, in direct contrast to that demonstrated by his predecessors, the Church and the world should take notice. It is not the vestments or the papal-chair that we should take notice of — but the absence thereof. In Francis’ refusal to be exalted on the human plane, it seems that the message he is seeking to deliver to his leaders is not only being communicated with his words, but also by his actions. If our Lord entered Jerusalem seated on a donkey, what is it that makes leadership in the church, Catholic or otherwise, think that we should be seated on anything higher or more elevated? Was it not our Lord that said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself”? John 12:32 (NASB).
Christ wasn’t talking about a papal chair to lift him up, but His atoning work on the cross. Perhaps the empty chair was Pope Francis’ way to encourage the leadership of the Church to carry their own cross, and thereby speak volumes about what it really means to “increase devotion” among the followers of our Lord.
Jesus come quickly.