Pope Francis has been named The Person of the Year by Time Magazine, a worthy accolade to a man who has inspired billions of people and who has in less than a year rekindle the fires of faith everywhere. And yet, he is not without his share of critics and criticisms. For some conservatives, he is out to destroy the Church. For some liberals, he is not doing enough to renew the Church. How little people have changed since the time of Jesus. John fasted and there were those who said: “He has a demon.” Jesus feasted and there were those who called Him a glutton and a drunk.
From the fullness of the heart, a man speaks out. What has Pope Francis been talking of that will give us a glimpse of what is in his heart. A Milan newspaper analyzed what he has been saying in his first months in office and determined that Pope Francis uses the verbs ascolare (to listen) and camminare (to walk) very often. The Pope listens and has heard the cries of the poor, the sick, those imprisoned, those discriminated against like immigrants and gays, those ‘living in sin’. He has shown his willingness to walk with them, even for just some moments. He invited anyone who would walk with him to always move avanti (forward), not to linger in the present situation and not to go backwards. His vision is all-inclusive, often using the words tutti (everything) and tutti (everyone). It is also revealing how rarely he uses the words punishment, discipline and power, words that were popular in times past.
Even from afar, I can tell who resides in the heart of Pope Francis – Jesus. Following Jesus has made all the difference in his life. He loves proclaiming the good news (Gospel) of Jesus. He knows life is difficult; but he has shown and done what he can to relieve the pain and suffering of the poor, the sick, those imprisoned, those discriminated, those in the fringes and the peripheries of society. He has done all these not with a long face but with real joy in his heart for he is holding on to the promises of Christ. He talked about this joy in his exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, where among other things he has declared that unbridled material economic growth will not bring us social, cultural and spiritual development but even more inequalities and sorrows.
The world today is full of politicians and leaders promising and talking about the good life for the masses but they only end up leaving a trail of even greater misery. I will cast my lot with Pope Francis anytime and in the Lord that he proclaims with so much joy.
John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”