Great idea! But…!
There were very few, if any, who advised Pope Francis’ to journey to war-torn Iraq. And that is putting it mildly!
There are of course physical threats to worry about. There are obvious risks to his health given COVID and his age. Then there are the threats of violence by political and religious extremists whether organized in the form of many independent militias or just sleeper cells.
What about the diplomatic landmines? A seemingly innocent gesture could throw things wildly out of balance. Then there is anger festering in the deeper scars from the literal decimation of the millions of Christians slaughtered and or forced to flee for their lives.
No wonder so many thought he should not go no matter how good his intentions. No wonder there were buckets of cold water labeled “buts”. Sure … a great and noble idea! But…!
Undeterred, Pope Francis went. He doesn’t just talk peace. He walks the walk. WHY?
A Council of the Good and Bad Angels
Permit me an irreverent flight of imagination about a discussion among some angels.
They hear rumors that the Creator is sending the Word to take on flesh and to dwell among humans on this earth. I suspect the angelic court stenographer might have been hard-pressed to keep up with the lists of “buts” to such a mission. After all, they knew the fate of earlier prophets. Why should this missionary journey be any different?
Of course, we know that in God’s own counsel, the Word came unto his own… and his own did not accept him. The consensus was right! Remember… the Word came preaching the “Good news” of God’s dream for all sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. It sounded great. But, in the end, even those followers he hand-picked and trained for three years did not understand. His suffering and death were way beyond their comprehension. How could the scandal of suffering and dying the painful and ignominious death on the cross be “Good News”?
The walk of community
They finally recognized the Good News of the Word made flesh in the breaking of the bread in community.
Even then it was necessary for God’s spirit to be poured out into their hearts. We know from the Acts of the Apostles their struggles to change their way of thinking about God and community, to wake up to the implications of being a community of God’s children, sisters and brothers of one another.
They learned that God did not just talk the talk of community. The “Word made Flesh” walked the walk of love. God loved until the end. God did not just love those of one color of skin or social zip code. God loved everyone, even those who held different views and were enemies. God included everyone in the human community and “saw that it was good.” The Word made flesh told each of us to wash one another’s feet and to “do this in memory of me.”
When I think along these lines, I begin to understand the man we call Pope Francis who walks in the footseps of the Word. He understands God’s dream. I begin to understand his vision that everything is connected (Laudato Si), everyone is connected (Fratelli Tutti) and the joy the Good news (Evangelii Gaudium). I begin to understand… and be challenged… to be an “instrument of peace” in memory of a God who entered our war-torn polarized world.
Am I willing to risk entering into the world of my brothers and sisters?
Who do I practically exclude from my world?
What are my “buts”?
Click below for and audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk