Yesterday a friend of mine messaged me about what I thought about Pope Francis’ visit to America. He comes at it from a much different mindset (and one largely centered around global conspiracies) which I don’t always see eye to eye with. But it’s ironic because of the timing of his message. Here’s why…
In the weeks and months leading up to the Papal visit to my hometown of Philadelphia, I had felt my anger and displeasure growing in intensity. The more I thought about the traffic situation, the lockdown of the city, the extravagant accommodations, the rock star status, the sightseers that couldn’t care less about God but more about catching a glimpse of a “holy man”…well, the angrier I got.
So I decided to pray on it.
I prayed to God to help me see the good in this situation and look past my own judgmental bias in how I view Catholicism. As a Protestant Christian there are some things that I disagree with, but I didn’t want that to blind my perception in what this visit could mean for all of Christianity and our country as a whole.
So then I waited. And waited. And kept praying. And prayed some more.
And in a few days time, I’m telling you, the clarity that came to me all of a sudden, just yesterday in fact, was extremely helpful in softening my heart. Instead of displeasure and disgust, what I now see is this…
The principles that this Pope has made an effort to display in his papacy (mercy, compassion, humility) is something that is quite important and often overlooked—in this country especially. Our own government offered the man a limo and he opted for a tiny Fiat. Instead of hanging with the upper-class in Rittenhouse Square, he is visiting a prison in the Northeast to pray with the incarcerated. And here we Americans are missing the point of his humble nature. We instead offer him this extravagant treatment with extravagant welcome gifts and all this star treatment…and yet I never even bothered to look past my own anger so think that maybe it’s really not the Pope doing this, but rather how we are exalting this man to such a high level of glorification.
Look, clearly Pope Francis is not Jesus, but he is making a great effort to live like our Savior in his actions—even before he was elected the leader of the Vatican. And though the Vatican is certainly riddled with controversy and issues from within, we must be aware that the devil likes to keep us focused on our own darkness rather than the goodness of Christ’s influence on good people. (How many times do we think we are not worthy of God’s love and yet how often do we remember how He gave up His only Son for our benefit? This is one of the devil’s clever tactics to diminish the authority of Christ.)
I think back to the New Testament. After Jesus prayed for the miracle of feeding the five thousand, the people wanted to make Jesus their king right then and there and Jesus was like, “look, you guys miss the point.” And He fled.
After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
The people only wanted Him around for the good things He brought and not the convictions that He also called attention to. Now that I think about it, are we doing the same when we encounter someone spiritual like the Pope? Are we merely looking at the representation of what he brings, but are we truly missing the point of why he’s really here? Instead of thinking about how we can become inspired by a person’s actions we either wait for them to do more miracles for us, or we just simply hate on them.
Perhaps the point of the Pope’s visit is not to call attention to himself in this glorious manner, but rather to encourage us, the people of this country to take action and be more Christ-like in our own lives.
So as I told my friend last night, it takes a lot of strength to actually live a Christ-centered life every day, and more often than not, we will fail in that. Yet remember how Christ doesn’t look at us relying on our own strength, but rather in the strength that only He provides. Perhaps you too, friend, can pray to see what God wants to reveal to you through this historical event going on in America. It might be much different than what I was answered with, yet you might be amazed at how this very situation has been created to show you something you’ve never even thought of.
Just remember that things that breed hatred push us further from hearing God’s message of compassion and love. So when you are in doubt—just pray. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done that when I’ve been confused and He brings clarity to a situation at just the right time.
I hope this helps to bring a little more tolerance and understanding in your life too. Good luck and godspeed.