Tuesday, December 31, 2013

I Worry About the Pope

I worry about the Pope; I think he faces fierce opposition ahead because he is talking about the need for societal change.  It is one thing to talk about personal sin because one can excuse the self by pointing to someone who is worse; but when it is suggested that a 'way of being' with which the majority is comfortable, is in need of change, there is an outcry and a banding together to protect against a perceived threat.

I believe generally in the goodness of people but too frequently we are limited by vision which takes in only the narrow bit of reality we occupy. The truly 'Great Men' see beyond that limited vision to concern for the greater good that transcends selfishness.  They carry us forward to reach beyond our base human nature and lead us to discover our better selves.  But such men are opposed, often violently so--the Lincolns, the Gandhis, the Mandellas . . .

I believe Pope Francis to be such a one; and that is why I worry about him.  In his latest encyclical he addresses the challenges of today's world; a call to truly look at the enormous gap between the 'haves and the have nots', the glaring imbalance of opportunity for education, health care, and even daily survival needs.  He points to an economic structure that stacks the deck for those who are privileged with unearned favors and excludes those who are not.

These are the issues that cry for our attention; unless we address them our world is not sustainable, but they promise great hardship for those who make us face them.  So, while I pray for his safety, I worry about the Pope.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Goodness Shines

I teared up upon learning that Pope Francis has been named 'Person of the Year' by Time Magazine.  Each year they choose from news coverage who had the greatest effect, thereby naming him the 'most influential'.  In the choice the quality of the influence is not an issue, just the quantity--yet this year goodness tipped the balance.

Along with other leaders, the Pope's competition also included: the current most evil dictator who has poisoned his own people and destroys his country in order to hold on to his power, the most embarrassingly outrageous exhibitionistic stage performer, the most narcissistic self-appointed 'fixer' who leaked national secrets, and an arrogant  freshman congressman who took it upon himself to shut down the government. All of those did indeed exert influence upon 2013 and history will remember them in one way or another, but Time's choice helps me keep faith in the hope that humanity may yet save itself from itself. The world fell in love with this man who stepped forward to accept the mantel of power bestowed upon him with humility and simplicity, eschewing the lavish display of 'superiority' expected of his high position.  He described himself as 'a sinner' and asks the people to pray for him. In his first public statements he chose to speak of showing mercy, of not judging the heart of others, and of following the call of Jesus to reach out to the poor and hurting.  People and reporters can't get enough of him because he exemplifies the high state of true human dignity to which we are all called but few ever reach.  The unprecedented response he received and keeps receiving from people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds makes him the most influential.

The choice of Pope Francis as 'Man of the Year' stands apart from accolades shown another man of goodness and dignity who also has won the hearts of millions, Nelson Mandela.  At his death this week there was an outpouring of love and honor given him by nations round the globe from citizens of the lowest rung on the social ladder to the highest dignitaries of state.

The connection I see between these two events is that regardless of the sound and fury of the famous, the outlandish, or the politically powerful, in the final analysis it is those from whom goodness shines who win the hearts of people in the long run.  And that gives hope to look beyond the greed, violence, corruption and cynicism so prevalent and know that people still put the highest value on goodness.