By Joel Hess

pope congress

I have always been struck by the way the Pharisees treated Judas when he returned the money they gave him for betraying Jesus. Their response? They threw the money back at him; his guilt, his sin, his salvation. Figure it out yourself. The prophets called these guys – shepherds who eat their own sheep.

So the good Shepherd says, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

Such rotten shepherding did not end with the Pharisees. Their protégés did the same to the people in the Middle Ages as the “church” also threw the yoke of salvation back upon the people as they required more than faith in Christ. And their heir did the same yesterday on national television, while a torn and worn world tuned in to see what the chair of Leo would do with their 30 coins.

He threw it back at them.  You figure it out!


Men and women gathered who are burdened by the chaos of the world: wars and rumors of wars, poverty and bankruptcy, divisions and conspiracy. Each member of congress carrying the weight of their own personal baggage, let alone the weight of the world. They were like sheep without a shepherd. And yes I am not naive, most of them are not looking for a shepherd besides themselves.

But alas! A shepherd comes! One who calls himself the vicar of Christ! Some call him the top shepherd the icon of Christ?

He had one job! Go and make disciples.

Speak! Jesus. Repentance, forgiveness, life, hope, the cross, resurrection!

You had one job! You shepherd of shepherds!

But instead silence. Coins thrown back. God’s back turned.

He threw it all back at them. He gave them a list of things to do. Oh, it was good stuff. He was, as a friend of mine said, “inspiring.”


But that’s like saying your doctor is good at juggling. Great! But that’s not his job and I still have a broken arm.

Francis did not give them anything, but laid upon them a yoke.

And by not giving them anything, He took Jesus away.

More than advice, the world needs Jesus. More than correction, the world needs to repent and hear Christ’s forgiveness. More than fixing, the world needs to be destroyed and made new. More than healing the world needs resurrection.

Yes, I know that isn’t the government’s job.

And if Francis’ words would have been spoken by the president or elected official or Ghandi then I would stand up and cheer too!

But speaking Jesus is the job of a person who calls himself a shepherd, a pastor, a vicar of Christ.  You shall not take the Lord God’s name in vain, you church that bears his name yet does not give what His name means.


Maybe for a couple of days they will return to their offices inspired to try harder, to change some policies, to love their neighbor. Perhaps some will change their mind on certain policies even.

Yet some also will hang themselves in hopelessness. How can we ever make the world a better place!! I can’t even keep my marriage together.

Brothers of the cloth, we too often forget we have one job. Lord have mercy on us. Speak!  Give out the Goods! Repent and believe the Good News! Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again!

Fortunately, one way or another, Christ will get that job done through whatever frail, flailing and fallen flesh He resurrects – so that those who are weak and weary will have Rest in Him!