We’ve all been reflecting, I think,
on the election of our new holy father, Pope Francis.
Our holy father has been talking about poverty.
He said this week that he wants the Church to be poor--
and to serve the poor.
That got me thinking.
Of course, we remember that following Jesus Christ
includes following his example.
In particular, the Lord’s choice to live a simple life.
Now, when we talk about poverty, we mean different things.
At first, we think of lacking food, clothing, and shelter.
Pope Francis as a bishop in Argentina
chose to live in a simple apartment.
When you and I do without food during Lent,
that’s a brief taste of poverty--
except that we can end it when we choose.
The pope is reminding us that much of the world goes without meals,
not to diet, and not as an act of penance,
but as the only life they know.
Another facet of poverty is lack of power.
Even where the poor can vote--and so, in theory have political power,
isn’t it interesting how it doesn’t seem to work out that way.
Hugo Chavez, the leader of Venezuela who just died--
he claimed to be for the poor.
Yet he left his country in bad shape--but he did OK.
Somehow, the poor always end up getting the short end.
When the interstates were put through Cincinnati,
notice which neighborhoods they bypassed,
and which ones got bulldozed.
So that got me thinking.
Right now, we’re seeing political trends that alarm us.
We have so-called Catholic politicians
proudly promoting abortion
and forcing contraception on the Church,
and forcing through a redefinition of marriage.
It’s outrageous--it’s discouraging.
And it’s what it feels like to be poor--and powerless.
Now, I’m not saying we should be OK with these trends.
That we shouldn’t use our rights to oppose them.
When Pope Francis was a bishop in Argentina,
he stood up to the President there
who was pushing these very same things.
But we have to be careful we don’t hitch our wagon to power.
Notice how many politicians, and corporations, and the media,
see a bandwagon and they say, that’s where the power and money are,
I’ll jump on. And we’re stunned,
and we say, we thought you stood with us?
And the politician gets very pious, oh--I’ve done some “soul-searching.”
No; he’s doing vote-searching.
If we’re not careful, any of us can make an idol of power,
And we will be tempted to compromise our values to keep it.
Notice how in recent years, so many Americans have endorsed
our government doing awful things--
like torture and remote-control war--
all in the name of “national security.”
Compare that with what we’ll recall in about ten days,
when God in the flesh stood before Pontius Pilate.
Remember how Pilate boasted, Do you not know what power I have?
What we want is for Jesus to snap his fingers--and there goes Pilate!
But he didn’t.
God, in his providence, has brought us a pope
who is calling the Church to imitate Saint Francis,
who relied not on earthly power, or riches,
but instead abandoned himself to the providence of God.
We wonder what lies ahead.
For the world. For our nation. For the Church.
Like Saint Francis, and like Saint Paul,
we count everything as so much rubbish,
Straining forward so that we might win Christ!