The Pope’s Name...

Someone once observed that all Christians can be divided into Jesuits or Franciscans. What does that mean? The Jesuits and the Franciscans are two religious orders in the Roman Catholic Church. The Jesuits are renowned educators, known for their intellectual rigor. (If you talk to Catholics, the Jesuits also have a reputation for enjoying the finer things in life. A friend whose entire education was under Jesuit auspices tells me, “The first time I ever had Glenlivit was at a Jesuit social gathering”. Glenlivit is an expensive Scotch whiskey). The Franciscans, on the other hand, are known for their simplicity and a deep, personal love for Jesus.

             So saying that all Christians are either Jesuits or Franciscans means that each Christians’ faith is focused either on the head or the heart. Each Christian is primarily in touch with either intellect or emotion. This categorization is not restricted to Roman Catholics by any means. A Lutheran can be a”Franciscan” in this sense; a Baptist can be a “Jesuit” (although probably without the Glenlivit). Every Christian leans either toward intellectual comprehension or emotional embrace in his or her relationship with God.

             Then along comes the new Pope. He is a Jesuit by background–but the name he chose was...Francis! An intentional bridging of the divide between head and heart, between intellect and emotion, between understanding and personal relationship?

             Whatever the Pope’s intention, it’s good to be reminded that the ideal for the Christian is a balance of intellect and feeling. A cold, detached faith that is all intellect is impoverished; a feverishly emotional faith that is all feeling is uninformed and possibly foolish. We need both. We need to be both “Franciscans” and “Jesuits”.

             Easter time might be a good occasion to ask ourselves: Which am I? Intellect or emotion, head or heart? And then to stretch beyond our natural inclination and grow in the opposite direction. If I’m a “Franciscan”, I might want to read and study some more; if I’m a Jesuit, I might want to pray more (Eastern Christians actually define prayer as “putting the head in the heart”). Paul indicates that real faith involves both elements. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” ( Romans 10:9 ). Let’s bring heart and head together!

             And go easy on the Glenlivit!

             A notable anniversary...

While we’ve been commemorating the sesquicentennial of many Civil War battles, this month brings the 150th anniversary of a non-Civil War engagement that took place on our continent. In the spring of 1863, French troops were besieging the city of Puebla in Mexico (their failure to take the city a year before is the event celebrated on Cinco de Mayo). During the siege, on April 30, a small detachment of 65 Foreign Legion troops found themselves facing a Mexican force of 800. The Legionnaires took refuge in Hacienda Camaron and held out until only five living, unwounded troops were left (while the Mexican troops had swelled to almost 3,000). The five remaining Legionnaires, out of ammunition, mounted a bayonet charge. Three of them were captured alive. The battle of Camaron established the reputation of the Legion as an elite fighting force that was willing to hold out to the last man.

             In an odd way, the Foreign Legion reminds me of Jesus. The whole point of the Foreign Legion is substitution. By recruiting foreigners into a fighting force, the French government is sending the foreigners into danger instead of native Frenchmen. (Every government, when mounting a military endeavor, faces the charge that it is using its country’s young men as cannon fodder. The French solve that difficulty by using the young men of other countries as cannon fodder!) Every Legionnaire then, is really a substitute for a Frenchman. The sixty-some foreigners fighting at Camaron were there in place of sixty-some French citizens.

             And Jesus is our substitute. He came into our world from another land–Heaven! And He stood in our place on the Cross. He took the judgement and the condemnation for sin that is rightfully ours. Jesus is the “foreigner” who stands in the place, not of a Frenchman, but of a sinner like me (actually, I am about one-quarter French, but you get the idea...)

             The substitution aspect of the Legion reminds me of Jesus. Another element of the Legion reminds me of you and me as Christians. Because every Legionnaire, upon enlisting, receives a new name and a new birthday. Joining the Legion means getting a new identity. (Since many Legionnaires are running from their past, this is an attraction). And we receive a new identity in Christ! “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, all things have become new”, St. Paul says in II Corinthians 5:17. The old me, the sinful me, has been abolished; a new me has come into being. I even have a new birthday–the day of my baptism! On the day that I was baptized I was born anew and became a “new me;”

             When baptism was done right after birth, the baptism was the occasion for the child to be named. This is why “christening”, an older word for baptism (which literally means “to make someone a Christian”), can also mean “to give a name to”. The association between baptism and naming is a logical one–because in baptism we receive our true identity as God’s people in Jesus! In baptism we receive the name of “Christian”, we receive the name of “God’s child.”

             So if you happen to give a thought to the Foreign Legion on the 150th anniversary of its defining battle, remember these two great spiritual lessons–Jesus is the “foreigner” who came from a distant land to stand in our place...and you and I have been given a new identity through Him...the identity of God’s children!

             God loves you and so do I!



Vol. 84 - No. 4
APRIL 2013