Pope Francis has named a new flock of Cardinals. Most of the big-name commentators had to scramble for their Catholic directors to find out who they are; they are not from major, cosmopolitan cities or places that jetsetters in New York or Paris usually go for get-away weekends.
I read comments like….”they are from the ends of the earth”….or….”they come from the fringes”…..or…..”they are not from important places of influence.”
Frankly, this isn’t anything new, although perhaps it isn’t a recent practice. In the year 33 BC (yes, I still use the old way of dividing time), a baby was born in Bethlehem, which wasn’t considered to be the center of the known universe. That baby boy, Jesus, grew up in Nazareth, another place of little apparent consequence. His dad was a carpenter and his mom just a small-town girl. When he started his public ministry, he picked a fisherman from Galilee to help him. And one of his greatest apostles was a tent maker from Tarsus, wherever that was.
If God had picked people from important places to do his most important work, Christ would have been born in Rome, perhaps of parents from Athens. Jesus would have picked his aides from Alexandria, Constantinople, Syracuse and Carthage.
Instead, Christ recruited a bunch of fishmongers.
Now, I don’t mean to in any way suggest that a bishop from a large, influential city can’t be wise, holy and a great Cardinal. But faith isn’t determined by how wide your city’s streets are, the number of Fortune 500 companies in your diocese or whether you are in the United States or Western Europe.
There were no kings or princes among Christ’s disciples. They were poor men from a poor land in need of healing and salvation. Those guys did a pretty good job and I expect the new cardinals will do just fine. Besides, who is to say that wherever anyone is sitting is on the fringes? Maybe it is the center of the universe.