So many people have asked me recently if I was going to see the Pope. As excited as I am that he is here, I am not able to get to one of his public events. Given the logistical challenges of getting tickets and getting to one of the locations, it just seems easier to watch on television. I sort of feel like I am a “lazy priest” that I have not done everything I could to go and see the Pope! As he arrives and spends a few days with us, I realize that his presence can make a difference even if my presence might not. So what does it say to us as Catholics that we have a Pope? What does it mean to be a part of a Church with this kind of leadership structure?
The media message of the last decade primarily has been to take shots at leaders of large organizations/governments. What drives this dynamic is the reality that many feel powerless as they stand before corporations or governments that they judge to be driving their lives in directions that may be less than desirable. So what do we say to the leader of the largest organization in the world as he continues to challenge us in our lives? For many, the Pope is like someone’s cute grandfather – if he smiles and does something off the cuff (posing for a selfie), he gets praise. But is that the heart of the message that his presence is meant to evoke?
As Catholics we believe that the Holy Father has been chosen from among the other successors of the apostles to act as “the visible source and foundation of the unity” of the Church (CCC 882). As we watch Pope Francis during his visit, let us be challenged to be in greater communion with the Church. Let us explore the areas of our lives where we have kept the Church at arm’s length, or ask ourselves are we willing to submit to something greater than ourselves even when we may have serious questions – for the sake of the unity that his presence means to celebrate. These are challenges that his presence is really meant to foster rather than simply looking for the “cute” moments over which the media will drool.
Pope Francis is the successor of St. Peter. He gives his life in service of all of us to make real the message of Christ and to unite us in our celebration of that faith. May we be challenged to say Amen more and more each day to the presence of the Holy Spirit calling us to faithfulness as the presence of Pope Francis has inspired us to be united as the People of God.
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