What a week in NYC! As I write this blog, this week the UN has resumed session, and the Pope will soon to be here. Security, traffic, and almost everything else has been or will be set on its ear.
In my years here, I’ve not seen as much interest or excitement in our city about as I am now witnessing about the visit of Pope Francis. Recently I was interviewed on TV alongside a Jewish Rabbi about how Francis’ visit will impact us and our Faith communities. Obviously this is not just an event that is stirring the imagination and energies of Roman Catholics. It is capturing the attention of people of virtually every faith.
That excitement makes sense on a number of levels, of course. After all, the Pope is the visible face of Christianity in the world (whether or not one is Roman Catholic). Furthermore, the Pope is a head of state (Vatican City being the smallest country on earth, but still its own country). However, other Popes have visited in times past, but none seem to have caught the attention of the public in quite this fashion. Why is that?
I think one reason is that with Pope Francis, “party line” seems less important that “people’s needs.” He is interested in the poor, the victimized, and the vulnerable, whatever their faith may be. He has washed the feet of male bishops in his own flock and of women who are Muslims. He has called upon world and church leaders to be diligent in responding to the Syrian refugee crisis without asking what church any particular refugees belong to. He has begun to elevate the status of Nuns, something that was long overdue. He has set himself apart as an advocate for children and for the environment. He has made himself accessible in ways that say he is not above but rather part of the multitudes around him. No red shoes, no papal throne, no luxurious residence for this man. He has rejected those symbols of high office, choosing instead to embrace one-ness with our common humanity.
Perhaps this Pope can inspire us to embrace that same one-ness, to be visionaries for peace and reconciliation rather than advocates of war and prejudice. When interviewed recently, I was asked what I would want him to say to us (to all of us of all faiths). I answered that I would want him to remind us that all the major faiths of the world have the same commandment in their Holy Books. Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Native Americans, Baha’is, Zoroastrians, Confucians, Taoists, Sikhs, Jainists, all the major faiths include a variation of what we call The Golden Rule: “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” I told the interviewer I would want the Pope to stress that – challenging people of Faith to live up to what we all proclaim to believe.
What a week this is in our city. We pray for and wait to hear a prophetic, healing, hopeful word. If that word is spoken, may God give all of us ears to hear.