Pope Francis has been talking to theologians. His letter addressed to the theological faculty of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina is summarized in a recent article of the National Catholic Reporter. Any of us who spend time as interpreters of scripture could benefit from his reminders.
Those of us who believe that theology is for the church will find a kindred spirit in Francis. He says that theology is not simply an academic exercise to be practiced at a desk, but should be taken to the frontiers. He goes on to say “the good theologians, like the good shepherds, smell of the people and of the road” and “pour oil and wine on the wounds of humankind.”
Francis compares studying theology to living on a frontier where the Gospel meets the needs of the people in an understandable and meaningful way. “We must guard ourselves against a theology that is exhausted in the academic dispute or watching humanity from a glass castle.” Francis goes on, “theology and holiness are an inseparable pair.”
It is good for each of us to be reminded that the Gospel belongs on the frontier. The pope implies that to do otherwise is to run the risk of taming the mystery. In order to move forward we must live it out on the extreme boundaries. May we smell of the people and of the road.