This morning is a fall morning; the air is cool, the wind is up, and there’s a salt tang near the water. I drove to Hartford and back yesterday, and it seemed to me that the leaves started changing during the day. I wished I’d had a time-lapse camera, for they were green in the morning, and seemed to have changed by the time I drove home. Illusion, I’m sure, but that’s what seemed to happen. During the drive, I listened to the radio broadcasting news of the Pope’s visit, snippets of his speeches, homilies, as well as interviews with people reacting to his words and presence. I feel blessed to have lived to see him. But what I am most struck by: he brings us to tears when he offers the simplest gestures of kindness, in the humblest of ways, to the people he meets, whether it’s a child in a wheelchair or the leader of the free world, whether he’s speaking before Congress, or having lunch with homeless persons. He is making visible, in his actions, the work of the church. What he does, in his person, is what millions of Christians, unseen and unknown, do every day, in living their faith. Because he is a global figure, his visibility, his actions illumine their actions, too. He dignifies our every day. After he was elected Pope, and began to astonish people, someone along the way said, he’s trying to be a decent Christian, and this is what it looks like. In a homily, given on Wednesday, Sept.23rd, the Pope delivered an unforgettable teaching on mission. For the full text of the homily, please see: https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies/2015/documents/papa-francesco_20150923_usa-omelia-washington-dc.html
Here’s an excerpt.
Jesus sends his disciples out to all nations. To every people. We too were part of all those people of two thousand years ago. Jesus did not provide a short list of who is, or is not, worthy of receiving his message, his presence. Instead, he always embraced life as he saw it. In faces of pain, hunger, sickness and sin. In faces of wounds, of thirst, of weariness, doubt and pity. Far from expecting a pretty life, smartly-dressed and neatly groomed, he embraced life as he found it. It made no difference whether it was dirty, unkempt, broken. Jesus said: Go out and tell the good news to everyone. Go out and in my name embrace life as it is, and not as you think it should be. Go out to the highways and byways, go out to tell the good news fearlessly, without prejudice, without superiority, without condescension, to all those who have lost the joy of living. Go out to proclaim the merciful embrace of the Father. Go out to those who are burdened by pain and failure, who feel that their lives are empty, and proclaim the folly of a loving Father who wants to anoint them with the oil of hope, the oil of salvation. Go out to proclaim the good news that error, deceitful illusions and falsehoods do not have the last word in a person’s life. Go out with the ointment which soothes wounds and heals hearts.
Mission is never the fruit of a perfectly planned program or a well-organized manual. Mission is always the fruit of a life which knows what it is to be found and healed, encountered and forgiven. Mission is born of a constant experience of God’s merciful anointing.
The Church, the holy People of God, treads the dust-laden paths of history, so often traversed by conflict, injustice and violence, in order to encounter her children, our brothers and sisters. The holy and faithful People of God are not afraid of losing their way; they are afraid of becoming self-enclosed, frozen into elites, clinging to their own security. They know that self-enclosure, in all the many forms it takes, is the cause of so much apathy.