It has been more than a week, and the hysteria has died down.People are no longer talking about his food, his previous lovelife, and his advice to families (“not like rabbits”). Perhaps I have been looking in the wrong places, but it was a rare post on social media about his exhortation to the youth. I think I made the right choice in staying home, as I was just watching TV and taking it all in, sans traffic, sans sweaty people, sans rain. I can’t blame the people, as I also wanted to be there, but was thinking of the magic of TV as I sat that day, having myself a revelation.
What revelation? Nothing much, really. Nothing that has not already been covered in the Bible, or in Religion or Christian Living class. It was really more akin to our parish priest discussing and explaining the daily gospel. The funny thing about it was even though he had foregone his prepared speech, he still got his point across. Three messages: 1.) Learn how to weep; 2.) How do you love? To think, to feel and to do; and 3.) Learn how to beg. What do I expect, the guy used to teach in college. But I was expecting him to mouth off exotic terms and impossible theology. I underestimated him. I should not have relied on mass media.
Now I have reflected on these three messages, and I made any theological or moral mistakes, please bear with me. The mistakes are all my own.
1. Learn how to weep. The visit had a theme, and is about mercy and compassion. Too often, he said, compassion makes us reach into our pockets and to give something for the poor, whether it be for a sampaguita vendor or a package of clothes and food for disaster victims. This is good in itself, but it should not stop on this. We should have the kind of compassion Christ did. What kind of compassion? Compassion means to feel what your fellow is going through. Christ became man. He became hungry, he lost a dear friend to death, and was also frightened of the future (in Getsemane). He suffered physical, mental, and emotional pain, anguish and shame. For this he was able to love us fully. For how can you not hate a multiple drug addict (or any kind of addict) if you know what withdrawal symptoms (and dopamine dependency and social stigma) are like? How can you not hate a single parent prostitute if you have to feed your daughter and send her to school, and you only know one trade? How can you condemn a suicide if you haven’t been deeply depressed? When you know what it feels like, it releases you and you become better able to help. You know which words to use, to assure and not to promise. You take their hand and sit in silence. You cry with them.You don’t have to experience these things, I hope not, but if you ask, you will hear. If you are still here, and want to help, you can volunteer. There are lots of institutions for doing so. But if you are sensitive, you can get asked by a friend.
2. The challenge of love or how to become saints. This is a bit tricky as he tried to cram other bits and pieces (this is impromptu after all), but one in particular shines through: He was reconciling the idea of the youth having access to the greatest repository of knowledge so far, and maintaining that it is not evil, but to use this knowledge to love. Too often, with too much knowlege we become too immersed in pop culture. Memes, fads, and hit songs and videos can run us the risk of easily getting jaded. A term, computer psychology (he probably means mentality), he explains as knowing everything that you do not become surprised anymore. (If you know the science fiction classic Dune, especially God Emperor of Dune, you will know what I mean.) Change frightens us, as we want to preserve the status quo. We do not want the cheese to be moved. Change makes us insecure, as we do not know the future. Love is like that. There is a saying among some people that they do not want to love because they do not want to get hurt again. They do not want to change. But God has loved us, and continues doing so. Even when we do not respond in kind. Who gets hurt more often than Him? But we are better off for His love. Therefore love, and allow ourselves to be surprised by love.
3. Learn how to beg. If I have not read of a book by a Father Robert Boudens I might have missed this, as I have been raised on “It is better to give than to receive.” Being a Boy Scout, to learn to rely on oneself and be self-sufficient. It was only in having nothing that I realized the value of having real friends. The overarching message is to learn how to be poor in spirit. This is not to say that we ask of people, we can do that easily, thank you very much, but to acknowledge what we lack, and ask of it, in humility, of others. To beg is not only to ask, but to ask with head bowed, without pride, but with courage and trust. We may not be poor in money, but we do not acknowledge that we need to be loved. Or the need for humor. Or the need to be trusted.
The Pope ended his speech on an apologetic note, as he hadn’t read his prepared speech. This was the highlight of the visit for me, to learn that all along I have known these truths, yet I haven’t been practicing them and I should, for this is the mark of being a Christian. To do as Christ has done.
For a transcript of the message, I got a nifty link from rappler here: http://www.rappler.com/…/81203-full-text-pope-francis-messa….
For a youtube video: