It shouldn’t surprise any one of us that this week’s visit from Pope Francis has stirred our emotions. What is surprising though is those emotions are unifying and have brought us together as one people – even if it is only temporary. Now we know that we can be non-patrician in our thinking and in our understanding.
For two days we have seen faces on the impoverished and homeless, on the refugees and on the illegal immigrants. We have seen our own faces relax in reflection on Pope Francis’ words – the messages that ask us to look into the eyes of another and see that person as a “real” person – not as a statistic.
Pope Francis said “no thank you” to the Congress’ invitation to have lunch with them. We are almost guaranteed that it would have been a delicious and lovely fare laid out perfectly and served with pomp and circumstance. Instead the Pope had lunch with the homeless in our country’s Capital’s slums.
Instead of going with tradition and washing the feet of the Bishops and Cardinals who gathered at the Vatican to hear him speak – Pope Francis chose to go to the streets of Rome and wash the feet of the homeless individuals.
Jesus’ example was to wash the feet of his apostles, and in turn ask them to wash the feet of their fellow man. Pope Francis, by example, showed the world that his “fellow man” was the “least among us”. This may appear to be a humbling experience – but it also is an exalted one. Can you imagine what emotions were felt by those who’s feet were being washed by Pope Francis, kneeling before them?
Closer to home, the Pope reminded us that the care of our planet was an honor bestowed upon us — that we were not doing our part in doing all we could to honor this blessing. He reminded us to take the time to breathe in the beauty that God has given us and to welcome the opportunity to be stewards.
All of his words this week have not so much been scolding us – but encouraging us to do our best – to BE our best. A cynical person might recognize this as the better way of raising up a child who is behaving less than he is capable of behaving. Instead of telling us we are doing the best we can under all the circumstances that are activating our lives, Pope Francis reminded us that we are capable of so much more warmth toward each other, so much more intelligence in handling our affairs, and so much more wise when we look out into the world as it is and say to ourselves: “What is it I am to say – What is it I am to do- What is it I am to Be” to live up to my potential and create a better world for myself and for others?