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The Pope’s Thought for the Day was simple and profound

But not, perhaps, controversial enough for John Humphrys

By on Friday, 24 December 2010

Thought for the Day usually reflects the zeitgeist. Thus we were recently treated to Clifford Longley on this Radio 4 slot excitedly opining that the Church is about to “change” its stand on contraception. His remarks were found to be premature; indeed, to paraphrase Dr Johnson, they fell stillborn from his lips.

So it was an extraordinary event, indeed a unique occasion, to sit up in bed this morning and listen to the voice of a real Catholic. The “real Catholic” I refer to, is of course, His Holiness the Pope. The message he conveyed was profound in its very simplicity: out of love for us God came down to earth, to take on the human condition, to be born in poverty and obscurity, in order to bring us salvation. This is the Good News of Bethlehem: Christ brings us hope, he gives us the help we need; he is the true “Light of the Nations”. We have heard the story of “this great mystery” as the Pope described it, countless times, but it still has the power to move us, even early in the morning on Christmas Eve – perhaps especially on Christmas Eve. Thank you, Radio 4, for permitting this privilege.

Naturally enough, it was all too simple for John Humphrys. Questioning the Archbishop of Birmingham a little later on the Today programme, he was clearly disappointed that the Pope had not been more controversial. To proclaim the Good News is bad news for the air waves. We were reminded yet again of the vast gulf between the Fourth Estate and matters supernatural. Poor Archbishop Bernard Longley struggled to bring in Cardinal Newman and the idea of the development of doctrine. Humphrys was having none of it: “I’d rather you talked about the Pope than Cardinal Newman,” he interrupted. After all, Newman is old news, even dead news. And the Pope? Only good news if he is being controversial. If only he could have talked about women priests and condoms in his Christmas message, Humphrys implied, Thought for the Day would have been much jollier. Sorry John: Christmas is about joy, not jollity.

To turn from the Pope to the Palace: I was disappointed to learn that the Queen’s broadcast on Christmas Day is to be about the importance of sport. Sport is all very well (though I don’t think Her Majesty ever brandished a hockey stick on a cold winter morning in her life), but it is not what Christmas is about. I fear the thought police have got at her script. Several years ago, in a Christmas broadcast that I feel certain was written by the Queen herself rather than a speech writer, she spoke most convincingly of her Christian faith and how it had sustained her in difficult times. That was the real McCoy and I wish we could have more of it. Horses (which you know a lot about) for courses, your Majesty: Christmas begins with Christ.

Apparently next week we listeners will be treated to a series of guest editors on Radio 4, including Diana Athill, a “raunchy” old lady, Colin Firth, never better than playing the entirely honourable Mr Darcy, and Sam Taylor-Wood, a conceptual artist. It should be jolly.

  • Gbattaliou

    The Pope seems to have a very clear understanding of the Gospel when he points to Jesus Christ,the long promised Messiah,, as being the Divine Deliverer from Satan and death for all who will put their trust in his perfect work and person. I do declare the Pope to be an Evangelical at heart, like the most famous German Benedictine monk of all time, Martin Luther. If the Gospel alone is the centre of his mission, then a new Reformation has started.

  • Thomas

    The spreading of the Gospel has always been and will always be at the heart of the Church's mission; but the heart without the body is a monstrous horror that never has nor ever will live. Thus, we must take the heart as enshrined and taught within the body, the Church, whose head is Christ.

    Unless we walk with Christ in the Church, as did the disciples on the road to Emmaus, our eyes will not be opened to the mysteries of faith contained in the Scriptures; and without the “breaking of Bread” of the Eucharist, our eyes will not be opened to recognize the presence of Christ.

    Even so, any “new Reformation” that attempts to depart from the Scriptures as explained by Tradition which is given life by the Sacraments is doomed to heresy, failure, and blindness.

  • Gbattaliou

    As Jesus said of the Phaisees, so too to-day unscriptural, hocus pocus sacraments and traditions make the word of God to no effect and we become blind leaders of the blind. A body without the Gospel heart is a decaying corpse. Spiritual revival will only comes through Christ ALONE, by Scripture alone, through Grace alone , by Faith in Him alone and for His Glory alone. Any Church whch does not promote all these priciples, is not fit for purpose. I think this Pope sees the true spiritual light of the Gospel of Christ for the individual more clearly than does the Establishment and their parrots.

  • nytor

    “Humphrys was having none of it: “I’d rather you talked about the Pope than Cardinal Newman,” he interrupted.”

    How dare that arrogant oik speak to a reigning archbishop in such a tone? Who does he think he is?! He's only a hack, whereas Bernard Longley is a metropolitan archbishop. The cheek.

  • Peter C.

    For the benefit of all, the Pope reflects God and the traditional reality of the season, not the fantasies of political trends – trendy today, the laughing stock of tomorrow.

  • EditorCT

    As Jesus said to His apostles – His first Pope and Bishops: “He that hears you, hears Me”. When He castigated the Pharisees, it was for polluting traditions, not for observing Tradition. Indeed, Jesus said that “not one jot or tittle of the Law will pass away…”

    The Lutheran doctrine of Sola Scriptura – “Scripture alone” – has absolutely no foundation in Scripture itself. Nowhere, do we read this. Not surprising since it was not until the invention of printing presses in the Middle Ages that bibles were available and even then, not widely so. It seems unlikely in the extreme that Jesus would have expected His followers to hang around for centuries before implementing His teaching in their lives. Oh and I think there might have been a verse or two on the subject, if that HAD been His intention. Doesn't make sense.

    Yet in the New Testament we find the Church described as “the pillar and bulwark of the truth.” [1 Tim. 3:15]

    If you read Scripture intelligently, you will find the Bible exhorts us to recognise both Tradition (which came first – read St Paul, closely) and Scripture. It was the Church (which we now call Catholic) that gave us the Scriptures in the first place, so it is unthinking to try to set the Church up as the enemy of Scripture. Indeed, because they chucked out whole books of Sacred Scripture that didn't fit in with their Protestant view of life and eternity, the Protestant Reformers gave their newborn “church” a corrupted Bible.

    So, stop knocking the Catholic Church. You like what the Pope said – as did the author of this blog article and every other Catholic in the universe, it seems, all of them thanking Radio 4 for the “privilege” of letting us hear the Pontiff hold the same God-slot that every heretic and non-Christian you care to name, is invited to hold. How standards have slipped!

    Me, I know that if the Pope had insisted in giving the “Catholic bit” – that Christ came to establish the Church which God had planned from before the world began, he'd have been told to sling his hook. Sorry, but I can't get excited about a Pope coming on Radio 4 to tell us that God became Man. I just can't.

  • Gbattaliou

    God had spoken in many ways to reveal His plan of salvation but finally He spoke through Jesus Christ alone.(Hebrews 1:1). ALL His Holy Apostles were given the authority and task of establishing and spreading the message that Jesus is the Divine Christ and He alone is the rock on which His followers will build their salvation. St Peter reminds all Christians that they are the church built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as the foundation. (1Peter 2;4-6) This message and teaching is the traditional Gospel which was then inscripturated for accuracy and permanence. It carries the authority of Christ and his Apostles, not of any subsequent human council. A personal confession of faith in Christ, like Peter's, is the only key that will open the door to Heaven for any person, without the addition of any tertiary or ex opere operato sacraments or membership of the RC church.
    If we can't get exited about the the Pope's Radio 4 Christmas message then perhaps it is a sign that we need to be delivered from vain traditions and false perceptions of the Church in which you put your trust, and turn to the living Christ and be born again of the Spirit, as St Peter exhorts us in his letter.

  • Field of Dreams

    On a point of information, Martin luther was an Augustinian friar, not a Benedictine monk.

  • Mary Pettifor

    How beautifully and profoundly our dear Holy Father speaks. His message of hope is one which is badly needed in our troubled world and turbulent lives.
    I never imagined myself saying these words 'Thank you Radio 4!'