The Pope was just here in Bolivia, and although I was excited to have him be here, I had no desire to go see him. “I already saw him in Rome,” I told my friends. “I don’t like crowds,” I told other people. In the end, I don’t know why I wasn’t excited to see the Pope in Bolivia. But the Pope visiting the US? That seems to be a totally different story!
Could it be that he visited my beloved hometown of New York City? Or is that this time I knew tons of people who got to see him? Was it because he spoke in places that I know all too well like the Basilica in Washington, DC, or St Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC?
Whatever the reason, I know that I couldn’t stop watching. And I was oh-so-grateful to my Internet for being strong enough to stream him live.
What is it about the Pope that makes people want to touch him, see him, and hear his every word?
For me, it’s what he says. Phrases like, “we are a church of and for the poor,” or “to change the world we must be good to those who cannot repay us,” or one of my favorites — “who am I to judge?”
Then there are his actions, like turning down an invitation to eat lunch with Congress to serve those experiencing homelessness instead. Or choosing to hang out with immigrants and prisoners and truly enjoying it. That’s what gets me. He seems to always be joyful with the company he keeps, whether he’s with the President of the US or with a prisoner in Philadelphia.
Pope Francis has had a huge impact on me, personally. He became Pope just as I was discerning to go on mission with Franciscan Mission Service. When a Latin American pope was elected and took the name Francis, I took it as a sign that God’s call to walk alongside the poor and marginalized was not just in my head. Here was this Pope reminding us every waking hour that walking alongside the poor is not just something we talk about, it’s something we have to go out and do.
As I prepare to go back to the US in December, his words and actions still resonate with me in a powerful way. The call to accompany others is still there. And for me, it’s a call that is not separate from the rest of my life. In other words, I can’t just love the poor and marginalized during my free time or when it’s convenient or easy. The call is to love them 24 hours a day / 7 days a week.
To me, this means we demonstrate our love for our brothers and sisters in how and where we live and work, as we travel to and from work, in the supermarket, on the street, and everywhere in between. It should affect how we vote and who we vote for, which companies we buy from, and which products we consume. In short, everything we do should be a reflection of our love for God and for his children, especially those who suffer the most.
It turns out that being a Christian is a full time job. May we all follow Pope Francis’ example by taking on a tone of mercy and acceptance. May we be open to dialogue and discussion that leads to positive change and reform. And may we always have the courage needed to stand up for justice and peace.
For in the end, as the pontiff reminds us –LOVE IS OUR MISSION.
Paz y Bien from Cochabamba!