Monday, September 21, 2015


   When Pope Francis comes to America this week, he will speak two languages:  Spanish and English.  But more importantly, he will speak the language of Spirituality.  Certainly whatever he says will include dogmatic and moral meaning, but his words, demeanor, humility, and openness to the people, will be expressed in the language of the Spirit.  Just the way Jesus spoke.  For the most part, he will focus on our everyday experience of God, and on God's call to each of us and to the institutions of our society, to be humble, open and caring for the poor, sick, and oppressed--and for the spiritually distressed.

   And he will speak concretely.  Jesus was not some otherworldly figure hovering above the earth; he was a real person of flesh and blood, deeply involved in his society that was oppressed by the pagan Romans and, in the case of the poor, by its own leaders.  So he will speak spiritually by using concrete examples that pertain directly to the values and institutions of our society, especially to the government and to the corporations.  Our religion is an incarnate i.e., "enfleshed" religion, a religion that embraces all the "flesh and blood" of our daily lives and institutions and of the earth itself.  So Francis will speak with an immediacy that will make many Americans and even bishops uncomfortable, and even angry.  

   Archbishop Chaput, Francis' Philadelphia host, has said that many Catholics are "confused" by the way Francis speaks and leads the church.  I believe Chaput was referring to the fact that Francis does not speak directly of the church's authoritative teachings on sexuality, by which we save our souls, as so many Catholics are accustomed to hearing.  Francis' emphasis is on the everyday, "messy" things of this world, like economic justice and care of the earth. One Congressman has said he will not attend the Pope's appearance before Congress because Francis will say things unfavorable to his party.  This man appears to have no idea of spirituality.  He has reduced himself to living in a political bubble that does not know the eternity that gives politics its life and ultimate meaning.  So he understands everything only in political terms.  

   Sadly, Francis will be addressing many Americans who have lost the ability to see the presence of eternity--of the Creative, Healing and World-Transforming Love--that is present within all our country and ourselves, and that gives us the ultimate meaning that animates and nourishes all our worldly meaning.  Francis is a citizen of the "Kingdom of God on Earth," that Jesus prayed to come. Francis' "kingdom" has no borders.  His call for justice and peace, especially for the poor and vulnerable, applies to the entire world.  So his speeches and appeals will be to all Americans, of every color and creed, of every political bent, of every economic level, etc., to be discerning and active  prophets working for justice and peace, not only for our own country, but for all the peoples in the world, and for the earth itself. 

   Let us pray that we not only hear Francis, but that we listen to him, and then work with all people of good will, to fulfill our faith by helping to make our country and the world more luminously alive with justice, peace and love.       

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