COMPLETE THE CIRCLE
By George Evans
I can’t seem to avoid Pope Francis when I sit down to write this column. That may not be bad. In fact it may be very good because he continues to have so much to say that we all need to hear. This time his Easter sermon to 150,000 gathered in St. Peter’s Square emphasized that evangelization, the topic it seems everyone is currently talking or writing books about, “is about leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s trouble, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast.”
He is not telling us to sell the catechism or to teach the creed as such. He’s telling us to take the risen Lord with us to those who need him and will meet him in us. That’s scary, but who else is going to do it. We are his hands and feet. Peter and all the heroes of the early church are dead.
Saints Benedict, Francis of Assisi, Ignatius, Dominic and are dead and while their religious orders are doing their part, they can’t do it alone either. He’s telling us to do what we are told at the end of each Mass, “Go and glorify the Lord by your life.” Embrace the world and its people in mercy and love and the catechism and creed will follow and will be embraced in turn.
Pope Francis prayed in his Easter message that the risen Lord would “help us to overcome the scourge of hunger, aggravated by conflict and by the immense wastefulness for which we are often responsible” and that Christians “would be given the strength to protect the vulnerable, especially children, women and the elderly, who are at times exploited and abandoned.”
He’s telling us to get out of our churches and get our hands dirty – to visit the sick and suffering, to feed the hungry and go into their homes, to teach about Jesus by letting those vulnerable see him in us.
Francis is telling us to nourish and strengthen ourselves with prayer, adoration, Eucharist and other sacraments but then to do something with it for others as Jesus did, not to just keep it for our own sole benefit. The tough things like affecting legislation that is desperately needed at both the state and federal level, working with one or more of the myriad groups attempting to make Jackson and every other city in Mississippi a better and more just and caring place to live.
Giving some of our time to those in prison or just out of prison, to those struggling with mental illness or the financial disaster which so often accompanies it. Reach out and touch a family member who has been excluded or a co-worker who’s difficult or a foreign worker who doesn’t speak good English.
Pope Francis has given us all kinds of examples of what to do in his actions and in his preaching and writings. He has stripped away much of the unnecessary pomp and circumstance of the papacy that made it more difficult to see the humility and care of Jesus by living a lifestyle much more in keeping with the carpenter from Nazareth and the incarnate son of the Father and risen Lord. He has worked tirelessly to reform the Vatican and has announced two synods on the family for the fall of 2014 and 2015. He has embraced the poor and vulnerable in almost every public outing.
He needs our help as we need his. We cannot be content with trying to shape up our own lives and stopping there. This world needs Jesus desperately and can only get Him from us.
Jesus has saved us and we have celebrated the Paschal Mystery yet again and are not only saved but strengthened by it. It is now time to do something with it and to take the risen Lord with us to the world in all its nitty-gritty reality.
(George Evans is a pastoral minister at Jackson St. Richard Parish.)