Father Leslie Hoppe, OFM

July 9: 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

College of cardinals

Zec 9:9-10, Ps 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13-14; Rom 8:9, 11-13; Mt 11:25-30

“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones” (Mt 11:25).

A defining trait of Jesus’ life and ministry was his identification with those on the periphery of Judean society. Mary and Joseph were ordinary folk. Jesus grew up in a nondescript village and was known as the son of a common laborer.

His closest followers were commercial fishermen. He socialized with tax collectors and sinners. Such people were avoided by religious folk. He held up a despised Samaritan as a model of neighborly love. He called the poor “blessed.” He healed lepers. He forgave sinners.

In telling the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, Matthew cites the text of today’s first lesson that speaks about the humility of the Messiah. At the moment the people of Jerusalem welcomed him with enthusiasm, Jesus identified with the lowly of Judean society (Mt 21:5). Finally, Jesus died flanked by two insurrectionists who were being executed for their crimes.

In carrying out the mission of Jesus in the world today, the church must imitate the humility of Jesus, who identified with “the little ones” of Judean society — the people with no political or economic power, with little social standing or influence in the community, with those so often overlooked. Popes in recent years have been looking at churches on the periphery to provide leadership for the church of the 21st century instead of looking only to bishops from large important dioceses of Europe and North America.

Pope Francis embraced this new direction by naming cardinals from the places like the Pacific Island nation of Tonga, African nations such as Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast, Asian nations such as Laos and Vietnam, Central American countries El Salvador and Honduras. 

Why has Pope Francis looked for new leaders for the church in small, obscure places without wealth, power, or status among the nations of the world? The pope wants to hear the voice of those on the periphery in imitation of Christ who reached out to people shunned by others, people ignored by the religious establishment, the poor, people without social standing. The pope is sending a message to his fellow bishops: listen to the “little ones” so that church can learn from the experience of all Catholics.

The bishops of the United States as a body have recognized the significance of Pope Francis’ desire to hear the voice of those on the periphery. They have intensified their efforts on behalf of migrants, the working poor, the victims of human trafficking, the unjustly incarcerated, those on death row, all those whom society considers without economic value and political influence.

Some Catholics consider the bishops’ statements and actions on behalf of those on the periphery to be intrusions into the political and economic realms, which are the concerns of the state or marketplace. They prefer the church to stay out of politics and concern itself with religious matters such as doctrinal orthodoxy, liturgical norms, vocations, and family life.

The church lives in a world that is controlled by the politically and economically powerful. If the church is to stand with and speak for those on the margins of society, it must speak to those in power. The church is to shed the light of the Gospel on the political, economic, and social issues of the day for it does not exist in a religious vacuum. The church lives in the world.

Still, what the pope or bishops say when they speak for those on the periphery will have no effect without the support of the Christian faithful. The powerful need to know that when the church’s leaders call for a just policy on, for example, immigration, for affordable health care, for a living wage, a just society that they are speaking for all Catholics. Those who make policy should know that we insist that they listen to the people on the periphery.

We need to hear their voices since Jesus prayed “I give you praise, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise ... you have revealed them to little ones (Mt 11:25).”


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