Pope Francis has from the very beginning always seemed very different than those men who went before him as the successor to St. Peter. Obviously, coming from Latin America and fluent in Spanish, the Pope has been able to reach out to millions who have a yearning to hear his voice and for their voices to be heard. On the Pope’s current trip to South America, the Pontiff has presented a strong case that he is indeed not just any man elected Pope but one who is intimately in touch with the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Those who know anything about Jesus know that he his mission on this earth was for all people, but had a deep connection with the poor having himself been brought up in poverty. We remember his teaching about rich people, saying that it was easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven. When a rich man asks to follow Jesus, he tells the man to give away all his possessions and join him. Sadly, the man declines and goes away.
In this spirit of Jesus the Pope is doing his work. As he meets people in Ecuador and speaks, the profundity of his message is overwhelming for them and for the poor all over the world. Pope Francis cites the current inequity in the world and how it is time to make changes.
The goods of the Earth are meant for everyone, and however much someone may parade his property, it has a social mortgage. The tapping of natural resources, which are so abundant in Ecuador, must not be concerned with short-term benefits.
The words may be specifically for Ecuador and its leaders, for as an OPEC member the copious wealth coming from its oil industry is definitely not reaching the poor in the streets of Quito or any place else in this country, but Francis is directing his message to the larger community of world leaders as well.
Some have said the Pope’s philosophy is socialist, but it is more humanist – his goal is not a redistribution of wealth but a more equitable alignment of resources to help those suffering from malnutrition, disease, and living in wretched conditions. What he is saying is in line with the teachings of Jesus, who understood the haves are invariably not as concerned as they should be with the have nots.
The Pope also used the opportunity to talk about the environment – another of his deep concerns for not just for our quality of life now but for the future of the planet.
As stewards of these riches which we have received, we have an obligation toward society as a whole and toward future generations. We cannot bequeath this heritage to them without proper care for the environment, without a sense of gratuitousness born of our contemplation of the created world.
Jesus understood how important the gift of nature was to the human race, constantly challenging his followers to look at the world around them. The Sermon on the Mount is full of these examples as he notes nature and its glories, and he also recognizes that many of them are ignorant of these natural riches, but observes children are the exception. “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children” (Matthew: 11-25).
Well known is the love Jesus had for children, and this Pope also follows him in that regard. You can see Francis’s face light up when children are in his presence, and much of what he is doing in terms of social justice and championing the environment has to do with them – they are inheriting this world, and it’s our duty to make it a better place for them in all ways.
Massive turnouts in Ecuador indicate how much the people want and need to hear the Pope’s message. As Jesus did before him, Pope Francis gives the poor encouragement and with sincerity lets them know that their needs are important to him and should be to those in power all over the world.
The Pope will move on now to Bolivia and then to Paraguay – two countries with enormous populations living in poverty. Obviously, the Pope has chosen the locations wisely, hoping to reach out to those who suffer and fear no one notices or cares.
Pope Francis does care and his inclination toward listening to others, to not judging those who are different, and his willingness to change not for the sake of change but for the betterment of humankind indicate that he is indeed walking the walk of Jesus.
Pope Francis is giving hope to the people of the world, and his message should be resonant to all who can hear his voice. Hopefully those in power will heed the call to make changes, to make certain that hunger and disease are eradicated by sharing the wealth that is locked up in the coffers of a few all over the world.
While Pope Francis is indeed walking the way of Jesus in this world, he is also making something abundantly clear – he is the Catholic Church’s first truly modern Pontiff. What he has done thus far has been astonishing in its goal to reach all people, and he creates hope that the rest of his tenure will be even more remarkable.
Photo credits: CNN, Reuters
[amazon template=iframe image&asin=0553419536]