From the beginning of his election and his presence to us on the world stage, Pope Francis proved that he was not anything remotely similar to his predecessors. He walked the streets, washed homeless people’s feet, mingled freely with the crowds who came to see him and, above all, he spoke his mind.
As he addressed our Congress this week, I was fascinated by the scope of his comments. So much to address, and yet, he was most succinct at driving home his messages.
One can only hope our Congress put their politics aside long enough to grasp his message to them that they are those who have been “invited, called and convened by those who elected you … to … preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens,” in “pursuit of the common good,” which he identified as the very genesis of politics. He called upon them to put their differences aside and instead, move forward as one in the spirit of fraternity and solidarity.
Perhaps it was these words that so resonated with Speaker Boehner (a former alter boy who was so moved by the Pope’s presence that he continually dabbed his eyes during his speech), that he finally decided to announce his resignation as Speaker of the House, which, for some, was a long-overdue announcement.
Has politics taken on such a life of its own that those who participate must be reminded of who they are, why they are there, and to what objective do they work towards? It appears so and one can only admire Pope Francis for standing before them and reminding them of their obligations.
I was grateful, too, to hear in his remarks that it is people — just like you and me who have worked for decades — that do “an honest day’s work, to bring home the daily bread, to save money and … build a better life for [our] families.” “These are men and women who … in their own quiet way sustain the life of society.” How many of us would say amen to that? Yet, we are the ones that our legislative members seem to have long ago forgotten.
Turning to world events, Pope Francis acknowledged how deeply disturbed we all are at political tensions and violent hostilities and which seem to be escalating in various hot spots around the world as the shackles of oppression finally fall to the wayside. He cautioned us not to be two-dimensional thinkers — those that only have two buckets — one for “the righteous” and one for “the sinners.” The world is far too complicated to be seen in such simplistic terms. His suggestion, instead, was to give what we wish to receive. “If we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.” There is only one measurement and it is used for all of us without regard to age, race, religion or professed beliefs. “We need a conversation which includes everyone … because it affects all of us.”
I am reminded of a quote that I read which resonated with me recently:
“I am grateful that I live in a country whose people have learned how to go on living in a sea of hatred without hating those who want to destroy them and without abandoning their own vision of peace.” [Golda Meir]
There is so much we can do better, starting with just us, and moving upward through our legislative branches and, finally, when we reach out to the world and help share the enlightenment. But it starts with us — the ones that have been privileged enough to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.