Among Catholics and non-Catholics alike, millions are enamored by Pope Francis. But beyond his rock star status, he has done much to help people rediscover the power of the Gospel. So what have you been doing lately?
As I write this, the Pope nears the end of his first visit to our country. His tour through parts of America have had amazing moments.
He made history on Thursday as the first pontiff to speak before a joint session in Congress. His words embracing immigrants struck a bipartisan cord. He moved some to tears, as he urged Congress to move past their differences.
Leaving Capitol Hill, he travelled to a church in a gentrified neighborhood. He prayed over men in suits and the homeless alike.
At another church, he prayed for those killed during one of Muslims’ holiest holidays. He praised nuns and women of the church for their service. He lamented the clergy sex scandal that still rocks the Catholic Church
But even with his busy schedule, he took the time to stop his motorcade so he may bless a child with special needs.
In just a few days he’s gained praise by Catholics and non-Catholics. Even those who don’t believe in God have been in awe.
I, too, am amazed by Pope Francis. And yet there is a part of me that wonders why.
What he’s been proclaiming is nothing new. Readings such as that of James has always urged us to do acts that the world praises the pontiff for:
Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective (James 5:13-20).
And yet when Pope Francis does it, people are mesmerized. In their eyes, he is a rock star!
While I might sound a bit jealous, it’s not so. I’m not reacting as the disciples do when John says:
“Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us” (Mark 9:38)
In fact, I pray I could be a lot more like him. My only beef is that the good done by many of God’s faithful often goes unpraised and unrecognized. But beyond this tiny concern, this so-called Francis effect has done great good.
What Pope Francis has shown the world is the impact good faith can have in this world. Particularly for the poor and the hopeless.
His words and acts remind the world that the gospel still matters. It can still surprise people. It’s power is much stronger than notions of intolerance people often attach to Christianity.
For the faithful, the Pope reminds us that we, too, are ambassadors of Christ. We, too, are called to be models of faith.
The challenge to us is to not just hear God’s call to love, but to abide by it. But how many of us will listen? How many of us will let God’s voice go in one ear and out the other?