I must admit feeling anxious about how people would welcome Pope Francis’ into the United States, the world’s most powerful and liberated country where technological advancement limits the impact of faith on religion and on how people behave and express themselves. However, watching Pope Francis stepped into America, we see how inspired and touched the people were, even those from other faiths and sects. As his motorcade passed by New York’s iconic 5th Avenue, we can observe that this Pope is different and truly a game-changer.
In a historic address to the U.S. Congress, the first by any Pope in history; Pope Francis challenged America to embrace millions of undocumented immigrants and join a global campaign against climate change and poverty, wading “undaunted into the nation’s volatile politics”.
He also called for a fairer world economy, the abolition of the death penalty, the protection of ethnic and religious minorities, the outlawing of the global “blood” trade in arms and the protection of the family. CNN cited that the speech underscored the emergence of Pope Francis as a global political leader — rather than a moral or spiritual voice alone:
“His boldness in staking out positions on the nation’s most pressing issues could reverberate through Capitol Hill and the 2016 presidential race in the months to come.
Practicing what he preached, the wildly popular pontiff, who has drawn thousands onto the streets along with blanket media coverage, then headed to pray and eat with homeless people and to pose for selfies with his adoring flock. The Pope, who was greeted by cheers as he stepped onto the floor of the House of Representatives and received several standing ovations and sustained applause during his address, did not scold lawmakers — his tone was more akin to that of a sermon or a pep talk. But he did not shirk from delivering blunt political messages.”
In this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear Jesus telling the Apostle John not to forbid others using the name of Christ in casting out demons. “For he that is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward.” (Mk. 9: 40-41)
Further, Jesus sounded a bit harsh when He said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” (v. 42–48)
The first reading also shares the same message, that after Joshua told Moses to forbid the two people who prophesied in the camp, Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!”
God would indeed be delighted if all His people are prophets! For this to be a reality, we shouldn’t be insulated within our faith. We have to share what has been given to us, and continue to be a light to others as well. Pope Francis exactly taught us that. Even into the ugly and messy world of politics, he showed the way how to engage them and immerse ourselves. Faith and politics can’t be totally separated. We cannot remain exclusive, we have to go out to engage the world to share Jesus message of hope and love. Wherever we are, we have to be the light bearers for Christ, in a world gone astray. As Fr. Armand has said, our mission is two-fold: “Do good, avoid evil”. We cannot just avoid evil and then not do anything. Laziness and complacency are not the virtues of Christ’s followers. The moment we stop doing anything good, the evil one steps in and fills our thoughts and subsequently our actions.
The issues that the Pope has challenged America to address are real and urgent. That we have to participate in its resolution underscores the need to embolden our otherwise reluctant faith.
May the Lord continue to strengthen the Holy Father in leading and teaching us how to be the light-bearers of the world and bring more souls to Christ!