Every day I marvel at how Pope Francis moves to guide the church with simple and yet profound words and gestures. Let us look at these words which allow us to know and imitate our Shepherd.
- “Exit” is about moving forward and starting the process to “re-launch a missionary Church”. A missionary Church is on the move, not stagnant, and fulfills the Gospel message by always looking out for others. Francis is a Pope who speaks first of the Church looking at itself for improvement. If we have to be certain of the outcome that means we are afraid of the open sea. But diving into the deep unknown of the water, not being bound by everyday routine is the attitude which the Pope lives every day.
- “Walk – Our Shephard sees humanity walking together to find the way. Pope Francis sees life as an intentional pilgrimage continuously seeking God’s will in our lives, which is very different from aimless wandering.
- “Listen” – The real effort of deep listening, of discernment, of recognizing the signs, is critical. We may find ourselves surprised, because God is the God of Surprises. There may be pre-conceived ideas and situations that we need to let go of and new ideas and concepts to embrace. The life of a Christian is never stagnant, never boring. Living in the Church of Pope Francis requires great faith and a willingness to listen and follow the will of God. Quite often that means we will be walking in unknown, unchartered territory.
- “Meeting”- The Pope speaks of the culture of meeting others. It is a very deep and important dimension of his very nature and he reaches out to others with passion and commitment. Francis speaks of the heart, of the person, of individual and universal values.
- “Service” – to God, to the Church, to our neighbor. There was a powerful demonstration of this when Pope Francis washed the feet of Muslim girls in a juvenile prison. We are called to seek the love of God with the attitude of Jesus to all, to actually look at people with mercy and tenderness, and to be there for others to the end. We must not be afraid to show our compassion for others.
- “Include” or to be against the culture of discarding people. We must not be afraid of being controversial; denouncing the marginalization, slavery, and trafficking in human beings. Pope Francis looks from the point of view of the poor and powerless and raises them up and gives them their dignity. We must recognize human frailty and our own powerlessness against both pain and discrimination and say “Who am I to judge?”
- “Guardian”- we all have a responsibility to guard others and the world, which has been entrusted to us to be guarded responsibly and with love. The Pope made that very clear when he gave an encyclical on ecology and the environment.
Seven words to better know and understand the spirituality of the Pope. Pray that as Catholics we learn these words and that we put them into practice as Pope Francis does, witnessed by the way he lives his own life.