Whether it’s barons of industry putting profits over people or, on the other side of the spectrum, everyday people putting their own pleasure and comfort above the value of their children, their families, their communities, their nation and their world, our new Pope Francis is clearly telling us with his words and his actions that it is not the way of the Lord.
That better view — a Christ-like view — of humanity, of relationships, of daily living and loving needs to take hold in the world in which we live.
And with more than 70 million Catholics in America, and over a billion in the world, we have the power to make that happen in a big way if we follow his lead.
Though politics, culture or other differences in opinion might sometimes separate us Catholics, the call to emulate the life and lessons of Christ surely must bring us together.
And that is exactly what Pope Francis is asking us to do.
From the start of his papacy in his first papal address when he called for compassion for the poor and then proceeded to bless all who listened, non Catholics and non-believers as well, he extolled the ministry of service to and love for others.
He put those words of love into action the following week when he washed the feet of 12 inmates, two of them female and one a Muslim, at a juvenile detention center in Rome. He implored all those in earshot, “Help one another. This is what Jesus teaches us.”
With those words and his actions, including his decision to live in the humbler guest quarters rather than the papal apartment, our new pope is sending a message to us and to the rest of the world that is quite revolutionary: the love and respect that Christ taught us to have for our fellow man is our mission. All else in life is secondary to that mission.
Granted that revolutionary message was first heard more than 2,000 years ago. But nowadays it might be radical once again.
During this papal transition, I not so secretly and very sincerely hoped that the new pope would be from Latin America, not only because it is home to almost 40 percent of the world’s Catholics, but because it’s a part of the world where the Catholic Church fully understands that it’s most powerful mission on Earth is to promote love and respect for humanity. The Church’s work there with charity and social justice, while also successfully convincing parishioners to live respectful and temperate lives, is probably why the Church there is growing by leaps and bounds.
Not that I am discounting any and all of the other important doctrinal, administrative and liturgical work the Church does, but the core purpose of our Church is to promote the love of Christ. The human morality that comes from that dictate has been responsible for some of the greatest humanitarian reforms, charity, compassion and human betterment in the history of the world.
And it was my hope that a pope from this region would undoubtedly bring a renaissance of human respect to the Church and to the world. So far, so good!
But we are in an era when humanity, human respect and our responsibility to others are sometimes forgotten. In fact, we seem to talk more nowadays about the rules, the laws, and the expectations of society, than we do about our human, moral responsibility to each other.
This is the way of the world, but not the way of Christ, and should not be the way of a moral and enlightened society either.
We are at an important crossroad. But God has sent us an extraordinary shepherd to lead the way. If we are willing to walk the high and sometimes hard road that he is asking us to, then we together with Pope Francis can lead the rest of the world that way too, and we will have an opportunity once again to change the world for the better.
This column appears in the April 18, 2013, print edition of The Catholic Sun.