|New Yorker cover by Barry Blitt|
I'm part of a rotation of faith community leaders who contribute to "Voices of Faith", a column in The Concord Journal, our local weekly newspaper. My turn came 'round last week and here's my article.
Reflecting on a man named Francis
So, what do you think of the new pope? Just two months shy of the first anniversary of his election, I think it’s alright if we still refer to him as the new pope. In a very short time he has found his way into the hearts of so many: those within his own Catholic fold and others claiming different faith traditions, or none at all. While my opening sentence is addressed to you, it’s a question I’ve been asked over and over again in the last ten months.
What is it about this man that captures the hearts of so many? Is it the broad smile that breaks across his face so often? Is it the clearly evident delight he takes in everyone he meets? Is it his simple way of life and lifestyle choices which many of us admire but might be hard pressed to imitate? Is it his insistence on meeting every person, without judgment, right where he or she stands in the moment? Is it the wisdom one senses not only in his words but more importantly in how he “walks his talk?” Is it his preferential love for the poor, the oppressed and the sick? Is it the way he tempers truth with compassion and judgment with mercy? Is it his unfeigned humility giving us pause and good reason for taking some personal inventory? Is it his capacity to lead us to hope and even to trust that God knows and loves each of us with the same delight and mercy?
Francis has a powerful charisma that immediately commands our hearts’ and minds’ attention and draws us in his direction. But even those who don’t share his Christian faith easily intuit that it’s not him to whom he wants to lead us but rather to One much greater than himself. This is the test of any pastor’s work: does one’s service lead people to the Lord or only to the minister? Good pastors are always pointing beyond themselves to the One whom they serve and preach.
As a Catholic pastor I’m grateful to serve in this moment when Jorge Bergoglio, now Francis, serves the Church as its visible head. Many have already written that while some popes are philosophers and others theologians, this pope is a pastor. Without a doubt, Francis raises the bar for pastoral leaders by inviting them to a deeper faith, a simpler way of life, a greater openness to all and a more genuine imitation of Christ.
Pope Francis is not without his critics but as you can see, I am not among them. What do I think of the new pope? Well, now you know. But what do you think of Francis and, more importantly, what difference might he make in your life of faith?
Subscribe to A Concord Pastor Comments