Fr Gerard W. Hughes, SJ exclaims that our God is a God of surprises. But these surprises occur only when God gives us a surprise visit! Each visit of God has a certain purpose to be fulfilled. However, God visits us by choosing and sending a person from among us.
While the Israelites were under slavery, God surprisingly visited them by sending Moses to set them free and to lead them to the land of milk and honey. God visited the early Christian communities in Corinth, Galatia and Rome by sending Paul, to reveal his message that Jesus is the saviour of the world. As years passed by, God chose and sent all the baptized, especially the consecrated people, into the world, to fulfill the purpose of his surprise visit, by playing the prophetic role, i.e. to be a mouthpiece of God in today’s world as Moses and Paul were in theirs.
A Prophetic role: Crying Need of the Church and the World
Today, we are living in a‘Wi-Fi’ world. Globalisation, industrialization and science have done good to people worldwide. We have witnessed tremendous progress and achievements. At the same time, we are also living in a‘Wicked-Filled’ world of human trafficking, corruption and terrorism. The majority of people are suffering from depression, isolation and meaninglessness.
All these negative changes are happening in the world because of the negative hearts of human beings. People are doubting the existence of God, salvation history, repentance and sacraments. Consequently, people are becoming atheists. It is sad to know that many consecrated people are also affected by this reality. But there are countless people, who have raised their voice to God to come down and lead us on.
As in earlier times, God has heard their voice! This time God’s surprise visit, in the words of the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr Adolfo Nicolas, “…opens an era full of hope for the church.” As God visited the Israelites and the early Christian communities by sending Moses and Paul, today he has surprisingly visited us by anointing and sending Fr Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, to be the Vicar of Christ, the Pope, to reveal his joy, light and mercy and to free the world from all its disordered attachments and to lead it in the way of salvation.
A Prophet: Man of God and Man for Others
Even though I joined religious life in order to spend my entire life as a priest, I was aware of the scandals and problems in it and in the Church. Hence, I was expecting a role model, if not a prophet, to inspire me and the world of today, to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. This expectation of mine, to my surprise, was fulfilled when I read the news of 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church washing the feet of the twelve prisoners during the Holy Thursday ceremony at Casal del Marm on March 28, 2013. He is the first Pope from Latin America, the first one who did not take part in Vatican II, the first Jesuit Pope and the first one to take the papal title after St Francis of Assisi. Soon, Pope Francis, wearing a silver cross around his neck, not only became our role model, but also a prophet of our age and a prophet for the 1.3 billion Catholics around the world….
Pope Francis’ simplicity, humility, cheerful nature, commitment, apostolic zeal and love for the Church and the world, touch even the hard-hearted. He embraces people, kisses children, respects all religions and prays for us, as our spiritual father. He inspires all people of good will through his words, deeds and his very life.
As a prophet of God, Pope Francis plays a dual role. One is to announce the good news, build up and encourage the faithful to remain close to God, to others and to themselves. Similarly, the Pope announced the year of consecrated life, called for a new evangelization, shared the joy and light of the Gospel and launched the Jubilee Year of Mercy on 8 December, 2015. He is guiding the church in a more sympathetic way than many of his predecessors. And the other is denouncing the evil deeds of the people and powerfully calling them to repent and turn to God. The Pope condemned strongly the terrorist attacks on Paris (13 November, 2015) saying, “Such barbarity leaves us dismayed and we ask ourselves how the human heart can plan or carry out such horrible events.” He called the Church to go out into the streets, seek the people and to visit the families and through the encyclical, ‘Laudato Si’ (2015), he invited the entire world to take care of our common home. He also raised his voice against the sex abuse by priests, abortion and homosexuality.
He is a man of both word and deeds. He continues the ministry among the poor, prisoners, sick and the marginalized. In the words of St Paul, Pope has become all things to all people that he might by all means save some (1 Cor 9:22). His simple gesture of embracing Vinicio Riva, a severely disfigured man, made him feel strong and happy and also to move ahead because the Lord is protecting him. His ministry among the poor reveals that the Church is for the poor and that poverty is at the centre of the Gospels, and his mission among the sick, prisoners and people of this world, discloses that God is our loving Father and we are his loving children.
To Challenge the Challenges
Rooted in Ignatian spirituality, Pope Francis is a man of discernment. He is very well aware of God’s plan, through him, to the whole world. But he is also aware of the present reality. Since God’s and the world’s ways are not the same, there are people plotting to trap him and the Church. He has a great challenge to preserve the holiness of the Church from those who scandalise her and use her for their own end. He has also to face problems like abortion, divorce, dignity of women in the Church, gay marriage and homosexuality. Because of his prophetic role in the ‘Wicked-Filled’ world, the ‘Most Holy Family Monastery’ calls him an ‘Anti Pope’, and even some of the Cardinals and Christians are turning against him.
But a prophet never gives up! A gentle smile always beaming on his face tells the world strongly, that he is ready to face any kind of challenge in the name of Jesus….
Our response to the responsibility
The purpose of God’s surprise visit is being fulfilled through the prophet, Pope Francis. Now it is a challenge for us to listen to this God’s prophet as we are living among the false prophets of the world. It is the responsibility of each individual to fall into the good soil to bring forth grain, may be a hundred, sixty or thirty fold (Mt 9:8).
By Sch. Amith Sandeep D’Souza S.J.