Every morning in the chapel of the Vatican guest house where Pope Francis lives, he celebrates Mass for the guests and preaches a brief homily on the day's Scripture readings. You can find summaries and extended quotes from his remarks on the Vatican Radio website later in the day. I enjoy checking these out because they are spontaneous and often give a glimpse of what's crossing the Pope's mind first thing in the morning. The guy is fascinating. The following summary is from the Pope's Mass last Monday and, while it is perfectly faithful to the day's Gospel (Luke 11: 29-32), I thought there were clues that something else was also behind Francis' words. Sure enough, later Monday the Synod on the Family released its report of their 1st week's discussions and the angry squawks from flocks of Canon Law enthusiasts can still be heard echoing across St. Peter's Square. It's very early yet--too early to know what ultimately they will recommend to the Pope regarding pastoral care of the family, marriage, children, divorce, remarriage, gays, etc., etc., etc. or what, ultimately, he will do with their recommendations--but the "signs of the times" sure seem promising.
"Be open to God's surprises, not closed to the signs of the times and remember holy law is not an end in itself."
"Why were these Doctors of the Law unable to understand the signs of the times? Why did they demand an extraordinary sign (which Jesus later gave to them), why they did not understand? First of all, because they were closed. They were closed within their system, they had perfectly systemized the law, it was a masterpiece. Every Jews knew what they could do and what they could not do, how far they could go.It was all systemized. And they were safe there".
They believed that Jesus did “strange things”: "He went about with sinners” Jesus, he “was dangerous; doctrine was in danger, the doctrine of the law, ate with tax collectors." The Pope noted that they "did not like”, which the theologians had formulated over the centuries. Pope Francis said that while they had "done this out of love, to be faithful to God", they had become “closed", they had "simply forgotten history. They had forgotten that God is the God of the Law, but He is also the God of surprises". On the other hand, said Francis, "God has often reserved surprises for His people" like when He saved them "from slavery in Egypt":
"They did not understand that God is the God of surprises, that God is always new; He never denies himself, never says that what He said was wrong, never, but He always surprises us. They did not understand this and they closed themselves within that system that was created with the best of intentions and asked Jesus: 'But, give us a sign'. And they did not understand the many signs that Jesus did give them and which indicated that the time was ripe. Closure! Second, they had forgotten that they were a people on a journey. On a path! And when we set out on a journey, when we are on our path, we always encounter new things, things we did not know".
And, he added, "a path is not absolute in itself," it is a path towards "the ultimate manifestation of the Lord. Life is a journey toward the fullness of Jesus Christ, when He will come again".
This generation "seeks a sign", but the Lord says, " but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah", that is "the sign of the Resurrection, the glory, of that eschatology towards “which we are journeying".
Pope Francis repeated, these doctrines "were closed in on themselves, not open to the God of Surprises, they did not know the path nor this eschatology". So, when before the Sanhedrin Jesus claims to be the Son of God, "they tore their clothes", they were shocked saying that He had blasphemed. "The sign that Jesus gives to them - he said - was a blasphemy". And for this reason " Jesus says: an evil generation”.
Pope Francis added, "they failed to understand that the law they guarded and loved" was a pedagogy towards Jesus Christ. "If the law does not lead to Jesus Christ - he said – if it does not bring us closer to Jesus Christ, it is dead. And Jesus rebuked them for this closure, for not being able to read the signs of the times, for not being open to the God of surprises”.
"And this should make us think: am I attached to my things, my ideas, [are they] closed? Or am I open to God's surprises? Am I at a standstill or am I on a journey? Do I believe in Jesus Christ - in Jesus, in what he did: He died, rose again and the story ended there - Do I think that the journey continues towards maturity, toward the manifestation of the glory of the Lord? Am I able to understand the signs of the times and be faithful to the voice of the Lord that is manifested in them? We should ask ourselves these questions today and ask the Lord for a heart that loves the law - because the law belongs to God – but which also loves God’s surprises and the ability to understand that this holy law is not an end in itself".
Pope Francis concluded, this "journey” is formation/education "that leads us to Jesus Christ, the final encounter, where there will be this great sign of the Son of man."