Over the past two weeks, the joy of many people – Catholics, Christians and many others – over the new pope Francis’ way of doing (his simplicity and human accessibility, his desire to be first of all the bishop of Rome, his direct focus on the poor and also on environmental issues, …) has struck me. The best image that came to my mind are the Easter flowers that piece through the still frozen soil when they sense the warmth of the sun’s first rays of light. I feel happiness when I see the hope of people and discover a trust in the church that seemed to have disappeared around me; I also feel sadness when I realize how much, over the past years, we may well have frozen the church’s soil, entrapping many of God’s flowers/people in anger or desolation. A pope who expresses God’s human embrace of the world calls for hope.
This is not mere surface. Reading and re-reading pope Francis’ homily at the inauguration, I am struck by its theological depth. St Joseph, Jesus’ discrete father, offers a wonderful opportunity to discover God’s care for the world, as it also invites us to take care of others, especially the poor, of our own hearts, of creation. To come to know God, we are invited to commit as God does to the world, to discover in this world the Lord’s embrace and presence, as a call that may surprise us, but the value of which we discover in the compassion that is awakened in us. The theology behind this homily is a theology of discernment towards service.
Over a long period of time, we may have given in to our fears of a world spinning out of control (also religious control), dangerous and threatening, cruel and develish: we may have lost our capacity to recognize God’s presence in it, sometimes in unexpected and surprising ways, challenging even our religious presuppositions. Over a long period of time, also, we may have given in to our fears not to be loyal to the treasure we have received in Jesus Christ and the Gospel message. We may very well have enshrined and entombed these fears in institutions and structures that have become oppressive because of their arrogant-triumphalistic, clerical and juridical features and that have frozen our capacity to enjoy the hope of so many in whom the Spirit’s creative commitment is unexpectedly released.
We may have retreated into the minorities that we most certainly have become in some places (also in my own country) by turning these into self-preoccupied bastions and fortresses: we may have become incapable of really loving the world and entering it with the incarnation’s embrace and kiss, listening to its many voices. Indeed, in this world and through this world, very concretely, the Lord touches our desirous skins of faith, hope and love.
Will we be able to listen to the Spirit at work in God’s people, in the hope they experience for a renewed church … particularly there where we least expect God to be present, in the poor, in the excluded, amongst those whom we, maybe all too fast, accuse of indecency? Can we still trust our hope and recognize that, maybe for too long, we have not dared to be God’s people? Can we grow in humility, so as to listen close to the earth, to the Lord’s voice in those we push away to become the least amongst us? Can we be compassionate in the footsteps of a compassionate God at the first ray of light on Easter day?
Do we really want to enter the open tomb and hope for God’s unheard-of commitment in the fires of an enamored world full of desire and longing? That may well be the only really important issue … the only …