This morning after Mass and breakfast I had my first opportunity to read the interview with Pope Francis that appears in America magazine. I refused to comment on it before I had read it despite some media wanting me to do so. What I read touched me deeply and reinforced my gratitude to God that the Church has such a holy and deeply pastoral Chief Shepherd.

One has to read it in its entirety to grasp the depth of what the Pope is saying even as he is engaging us with his own direct style and fraternal spirit. I intend to re-read it and use it for my own prayer and reflection. I said just that to my Jesuit friend who emailed the interview to me yesterday. He responded that he, too, is doing the same because of what the Holy Father has said about the Jesuit charism and the living out of that as Jesuits in this century.

While I believe every bishop I know will have the same reaction I did, namely that we agree with him and seek to serve the Church as he does, we all can use his words to examine our own lives, one by one. I suspect that all the disciples of Christ, the faithful members of the people of God, can do the same, seeking to see what he has to tell us, each one of us, for the good of the whole Church and the witness we need to make to the world about God’s mercy and the truth about Jesus Christ which alone can make us free.

By the way, I was taken aback when I saw how the media reported this and what they claimed the Pope said. The Wall Street Journal wrote that he said focus on abortion, gay marriage and other social issues threaten “to bring down the Church ‘like a house of cards’.” Well, NO. He didn’t say that. As Pope he could not and would not say that. He did say that focusing only on those issues needs to be balanced and that emphasizing only those issues runs the risk of our moral structure to fall “like a house of cards”. There is a big difference there.

The NY Times headlined “Pope says Church Is ‘Obsessed” with gays, abortion and birth control.” Well, NO again. He did not say that. He said “The Church cannot be obsessed with these issues and must see these and all other issues in context”. May I be kind but, I believe, accurate. The people in our culture who look on these issues, especially the media, are the ones who are “obsessed” by them. Why? Because they have already decided what they think is right and therefore are threatened by a Church that seeks to be merciful and loving without having to subscribe to their agenda.

But far more importantly, Pope Francis has given us a glimpse into the heart and mind of a good shepherd. I certainly seek to learn from his words and his example. I am one with him in praying and working that the Church may always live and witness the tremendous merciful love of God, a love that extends to each and every person within the Church and desires truly and totally to reconcile those who finds themselves estranged and those who seek to know God and the reconciling power of His Son. Read the interview, not the commentaries, including this one!