Posted by Gary on December 27, 2007
Late Christmas Eve as my children lay on the floor in front of me under our Christmas tree I scanned some news and came across the headline that Pope Benedict XVI had conducted midnight mass and had addressed the Roman Catholic faithful and the world. Before proceeding I would emphasize the world… while Benedict began his statements at this service with the words “brothers and sisters” mankind in general was referenced in his message and there is no question that when the pope speaks, his words travel throughout the world, even gaining top page, headline status at the Drudge Report.
Being a former Catholic and now protestant minister I had more than one reason to be interested in what Benedict would have to say as the world listened. I think that above all, the fact that the pope has the world’s ear made me especially interested to hear what he would say. Think of the opportunity, the ears of perhaps billions of people, what will the world’s religious leader say? I regret to say, nothing.
Here again, hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of people will hear or read what the pope will say this night and did we hear the gospel? No, we did not. Yes, Jesus was mentioned, God was mentioned, man was mentioned but never in all that was said on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day when Benedict made an appeal to the leaders of the world for peace (here) did Benedict ever lay out plainly the cause of man’s problems or why Christ’s birth was necessary.
Granted the word “cross” appears I think twice and the words “sin” and “sinner” are each used once but never with elaboration, never with an even abbreviated explanation of the gospel message which is God coming to earth to save us from our sin.
One might argue that this homily was offered to the faithful and that the faithful would see in these buzz words a references to the gospel. But again I argue, that one must recognize that whenever the pope speaks it is to the world and his obligation on this night perhaps above all others would be to preach the gospel. Even if it were addressed to the faithful alone do the faithful not need to hear the plain, detailed gospel?
There was a willingness to speak of oppression, the poor and even man’s treatment of the world (environmental concerns). I read and thought, “Ok man, tell us why we are in the predicament we are in, speak plainly about the effects of the fall and sin. Tell us that our greatest problem is that we are on our way to an eternity separated from Christ. Tell us that God’s intention in sending His Son was to send Him to the cross where He would punish Him in our place as our substitute and that our response now is to repent of our sin and turn in faith to Christ but this was not said.
Benedict urged man to make room in his heart for God, he might just as well have urged man to sprout wings and fly. Man doesn’t want to make room in his heart for God. This is what sin has done to us:
Romans 3:11-12 “THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.”
Our hearts do not open to God until He first breaks them open and He does this by showing us the truth about ourselves in our lost condition. Benedict wants man to open his heart but then does not preach the heart rending Word of God that will open man’s heart.
I will put it this way, if an unsaved person were to have heard or would later read Benedict’s Christmas message would he come away from it understanding that he is lost in his sin and on his way to stand before the holy God? Would he know the way of salvation? Would he know that Christ’s birth was ultimately about going to the cross to pay the price of sin committed and that simply by looking to Christ he could be saved?
The truth is that the gospel of Rome is not looking to Christ alone for salvation, it is Christ plus my religious works and faithfulness that work together to accomplish salvation. I am ultimately convinced that Benedict’s message Christmas Eve is a revealer of the false gospel of Catholicism. Benedict’s message boiled down was open your heart to God and do the things you are supposed to. But Benedict never told us that we can’t do these things apart from Christ’s substitutionary death and resurrection. What a tragedy, the ears of the world, an opportunity to preach gospel of Christ and nothing.
I fear that many who are Roman Catholic will not see in my thoughts anything more than a mean spirited attack and I suppose this is what is most tragic of all, the bulk of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics have not been taught the Biblical gospel and therefore are unable to discern when they have not heard it. It is not my intention to be mean. How I would rejoice to write a post that could confirm that the pope preached the gospel on Christmas Eve, but he didn’t and I can’t. An exalted position, vestments, incense, religious talk but no gospel.
May God lead us to His Word which leads us to His Son, then and only then will we have hope.
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