By Sister Cathy Minhoto, RSHM
Los Angeles, California
When questioned about convening an ecumenical council, John XXlll stated that he wanted to throw open the windows of the church so that we can see out and the people can see in, while “letting the fresh air of the Spirit blow through.” In another view of the church, the affable Pope wanted the church not to be a museum of antiques, but a place that “tends the blooming garden of life.” John XXIII was definitely a “window” man, challenging the pre-Vatican II Church to dust off sills, to unlatch locks, to look at the world, to be attentive to the signs of the times and to allow the “joy and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of all people, especially those who are poor and in any way afflicted” to be our joys and hopes, our griefs and anxieties. (Gaudium et Spes).
Our current Pope, the ever-surprising Francis, has his own perspective of the Church. In this exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” Francis describes the church as a place with wide open doors – authentic disciples of Jesus keep open the doors to grace, inviting, welcoming, waiting “like the father who keeps his door open” so when the prodigal child returns, he can pass through it” (#46). I must confess that when the doorbell rings on a Saturday morning, I would much prefer to ignore it, especially if it is our regular neighborhood proselytizers, whose enthusiasm I admire, but whose persistence I find disconcerting. For this reason, the door image pulls me outside of my comfort zone where the unknown may call me to places where I would rather not be.
I think that Francis sees the follower of Jesus as a doorman/woman who opens door, carries luggage, assists others in finding their way. This gospel doorman/woman is at the service of others, risks pushing out boundaries, embraces diversity, and reverences the presence of the wounded and Risen Jesus in surprising places – among unaccompanied children crossing borders, with women, victims of domestic abuse, with all those enslaved by disease, violence, and war.
I was moved when Jorge Mario Bergoglio chose the name Francis – saint of Assisi, lover of the poor, mystic and prophet, follower of the Christ of the no-place, singer of a canticle of creation. Through this new Francis, I think that the invitation of Jesus is being given once more: “Francis, don’t you see that my Church is crumbling? Go, then and rebuild it.” With Francis, let us rebuild our Church as people of passion and compassion, of inclusiveness and mercy, of wonder and joy. Let us be both window persons and door persons in this invitation to renew, reshape, and rebuild a Church that is truly missionary, embracing all persons, going forth in hope and joy, proclaiming a God of abundant love for all creation.