I didn’t think of my sermon last Sunday for Peace With Justice Sunday as a prelude to Pope Francis’ visit to our country, but I’ve been thinking of how well he lives up to the prophet Micah’s call, which we considered, to, “Do justice…love kindness…walk humbly with your God.”
We see that in the Pope, don’t we? It really begins with his humble walk with God, I think. That is his foundation, his way of life, his living of faith. His humility and simplicity have moved people. His riding in a Fiat rather than a limousine is a visible reminder that this Pope is not about pomp and circumstance, but about humility. Like Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey rather than a prancing stallion. He comes in humility. He comes in peace.
His kindness is seen everywhere he goes. He baffles his security people, breaking out of protocol to embrace a person in a wheelchair, to touch and bless children, to embrace the outsider. “He seems to feed off the crowds and being among them,” said one news person.
His call for justice is clear and undeniable, but since it comes from a posture of humility and kindness, I think that it is better heard. He speaks about seeing not just the overwhelming masses, but seeing individual persons in the refugees, in the poor, in the broken. He talks unflinchingly about the suffering of immigrants/refugees, about food and poverty, about global warming. He challenges us with that quiet humility, but, nevertheless, he challenges us. He seems to realize that ranting and raving seldom produces change. I think he knows the only true motive for change is love—the love of God that we receive gratefully and joyfully and share with others around us.
I think Pope Francis reveals to us something of what Micah meant: “Do justice…love kindness…walk humbly.” We could also say it this way—he shows us how Christ meant for us to live.
What encourages me is the response to Pope Francis. People love him, Catholics and non-Catholics alike. The excitement, the energy, the hoards of people clamoring to get a look at him or even his “Popemobile.” I’ve heard the atmosphere described by more than one news person as “electric.” There are “Pope pizzas,” Pope bobble-heads, Pope outfits for dogs. Some cynics might say it is merely tacky capitalism producing all this stuff, but I think there’s more to it than that. People admire and respect him. Indeed, people love him. That’s no small thing in a world where so many of our leaders bicker and ridicule, promote themselves, and seek their own wealth and glory. It seems to me that many are saying, “This is the kind of religious leader we need.” Could they also be saying simply, “This is the kind of leader we need?”
I’m praying for the Pope…for his health, for his safety, for his message to be heard and heeded—and not quickly forgotten. While I obviously would not agree with him on everything, I think he is holding before Catholics and the rest of the world the core of Christianity.
This Sunday Becky Brown will preach on the Book of Esther, which is a fascinating book, but not very well known among Christians. It’s about another person who stepped up to assume responsibility. I’m sure if we could ask the Pope, he’d agree that being in worship weekly is an amazing, enriching, and transforming thing to do!
See You Sunday,