“The Son of God became incarnate in the souls of men to instill [or "incarnate in order to instill in the souls of men"] the feeling of brotherhood. All are brothers and all children of God. Abba, as he called the Father. I will show you the way, he said. Follow me and you will find the Father and you will all be his children and he will take delight in you. Agape, the love of each one of us for the other, from the closest to the furthest, is in fact the only way that Jesus has given us to find the way of salvation and of the Beatitudes.” – Pope FrancisI thought that the Son of God became incarnate, not merely "in the souls of men," but became flesh in order to do something for us that we could never do for ourselves -- namely, to die for our sins. But here comes our universal pastor telling us that the Son of God came to instill a "feeling of brotherhood."
A "feeling of brotherhood," of course, is what Beethoven's 5th Symphony is all about, which offers an orchestral setting to Schiller's famous Ode to Joy with its "Alle Menschen werden Brüder," to yield that glorious, frenzied Deistic proto-Masonic ode to the brotherhood of man based on man's inherent nobility in defiance of any recognition of the scandal of Christ and His cross.
But wait! There's more! I always thought that when Jesus said "follow me," He included a tiny caveat that whoever wants to be His disciple must "deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me," and that "following" Jesus meant turning away from sin and embracing a life of discipleship: "If you love me, keep my commandments," He said (Jn 14:15). But here, the Holy Father tells us that by following Jesus -- which, in the context, seems to mean no more than having "a feeling of brotherhood" -- one will automatically become the object of the Father's delight. No mention of any requirement on our part. I scratch my head.
Finally there's this: I always thought that the "the way of salvation" and genuine "beatitude" meant being delivered from sin and its natural consequence of death by regeneration through faith, repentance, and incorporation into the Body of Christ through the waters of baptism, death of the old nature, and resurrection to new life, both in this world and the next. But here the Holy Father's focus is purely immanent and this-worldly: he explains the "only" way of salvation as lying in "love of each one of us for the other." This, of course, is a very good thing, but not something one could not have garnered from Barney and Friends or the Care Bears.
The danger of such statements is that it can not only undermine the confidence of the faithful -- as in Louie Verrechio's recent fisk entitled "Game On" (Harvesting the Fruit of Vatican II, October 3, 2013), or Michael Matt and Christopher Ferrara's discussion, "Pope Francis and THE Interview" (The Remnant Forum, September 28, 2013), or Janet E. Smith in "Are We Obsessed?" (On the Square, September 25, 2013) -- but leave lapsed Catholics indifferent about their relationship to the Church, and confuse the objectives of the New Evangelization.
I sometimes worry that the essence of the Gospel will be reduced to "Don't worry, be happy." [Hat tip to Anon.]