The cross shows us a different way of measuring success. Ours is to plant the seeds. God sees to the fruits of our labors. And if at times our efforts and works seem to fail and not produce fruit, we need to remember that we are followers of Jesus Christ and his life, humanly speaking, ended in failure, the failure of the cross.a) Notice that the point of the paragraph is to explain the right way of measuring success. It's not a discourse on the atonement or on redemption, but instead of metrics of success. The cross is an example of how to measure success.
b) Not only is this confirmed by the thesis sentence of the paragraph, but also by the way that the paragraph fits within the section of the speech:
And it diminishes the wonder of our first encounter with Christ. We can get caught up in measuring the value of our apostolic works by the standards of efficiency, good management and outward success, which govern the business world.b) Thus, the point of the Pope's statement is to contrast outward success, success as perceived by men, with true success.
Not that these things are unimportant, of course. But we have been entrusted with a great responsibility, and this is why god's people rightly expect accountability from us but the true worth of our apostolate is measured by the value it has in god's eyes, to see and evaluate things from god's perspective, calls for constant conversion in the first days and years of our vocation and, need I say, it demands great humility.
The cross shows us a different way of measuring success. Ours is to plant the seeds. God sees to the fruits of our labors. And if at times our efforts and works seem to fail and not produce fruit, we need to remember that we are followers of Jesus Christ and his life, humanly speaking, ended in failure, the failure of the cross.
c) The pope is drawing a distinction between measuring worldly endeavors (like businesses) with "our apostolic works" or "apostolate."
d) So, in context the pope is saying that measured by business standards, i.e. "humanly speaking" the cross was a failure.
e) The pope is saying that this is the wrong way to measure spiritual endeavors. It's an argument from the greater to the lesser. If measuring the cross by business standards would make it look like a failure, we shouldn't worry that our apostolate/apostolic works look like a failure by that standard.
f) That the pope was talking about failure that shouldn't count as failure can be seen from the fact that he refers to "seem to fail" when describing our efforts and works.
g) The alternative understanding, that Francis meant that the cross really did fail, would undermine the point of using the cross as an illustration. If the cross actually failed, then business method of measuring success is right, and we're not dealing with a "different way of measuring success," but with a same way of measuring success.
h) Finally, we see the same thing confirmed in the way that the pope wraps up his discussion in a subsequent paragraph:
I know that many of you are on the front lines in meeting the challenges of adapting to an evolving pastoral landscape, like Saint Peter, I ask you, that regardless of the difficulties and trials that you face, be at peace and respond to them as Christ did. He gave thanks to the father, took up his cross and looked forward.Notice that he encourages people to imitate Christ in their "front lines" of "an evolving pastoral landscape." That makes sense if the cross was a success spiritually, though not "humanly speaking," but makes no sense if the cross was truly a failure.
Now, I certainly agree that the RC views of the atonement and of the mass treat the cross as being at least partly a failure - but that's an external critique of their position - not something they themselves admit. Acting like Francis was admitting it here is inappropriate "gotcha" apologetics at best. We need to be honest in our criticisms, even of the Man of Sin whom God will destroy with his Spirit.