An Encounter at the Airport

Yesterday in one of my readings, I came upon this story from the book Francis, Pope of a New World by Andrea Tornielli:

“On Wednesday, February 27 (2013), at eight in the morning, by the baggage carousels at International Arrivals of Leonardo De Vinci Airport (Roma-Fiumicino), three cardinal electors meet. They have just arrived at the same hour on flights coming from Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo (Brazil), and Manila. They are Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Odilo Pedro Scherer, and Luis Antonio Tagle. The first two are wearing clerical attire. The third is in civilian garb and still looks like a youngster. They knew one another. They respect one another. They greet one another. The next day, in the Sala Clementina, when Padre Bergoglio meets Cardinal Tagle dressed in regulation black cassock with red trimmings, red cape and zucchetto, he tell him jokingly, “You know, yesterday at the airport there was a boy who looked a lot like you . . . “

This humorous and heart-warming anecdote reveals the mirthful and joyful spirit of Pope Francis. He has captured the world’s imagination and inspired many Catholics with his constant proclamations on the joy of being a Christian. On at least two occasions, he tweeted: “A Christian is never bored or sad. Rather, the one who loves Christ is full of joy and radiates joy.”  and “If we live the faith in our daily life, then our work too becomes a chance to spread the joy of being a Christian.”

And yet he does not lose sight of the fact that the cross is an essential part of being a disciples. He warned us, specially the clergy and religious, against practicing a Christianity that would seek to get rid of the cross: “When we journey without the cross, when we build without the cross, when we profess Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly: we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.”

Pope Francis explains: “Suffering is not a virtue by itself, but the way in which it is experienced can be virtuous. We are called to the fullness of happiness, and in this search, suffering is a limit. Therefore, you truly understand the meaning of suffering through the suffering of the God-made-man Jesus Christ.”

Suffering and pain reveal our sinfulness, our weakness, our inadequacies, our incompleteness. Suffering makes us seek forgiveness for our sins and shortcomings, strength and courage for our weaknesses, abundance for our inadequacies and fulness for our incompleteness and even emptiness. We find these in the loving mercy of God. Pope Francis tells us that the mercy of Jesus “is a love that is specially felt in the contact with suffering, injustice, poverty, and all human frailty, both physical and moral.”

In the end, we must realize, through these words of Pope Francis, that “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a Person, which gives life an new horizon and a decisive direction.”

Because I have encountered the Lord, I share in His joy.

Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth.

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying:
“Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me,
so that they may be one just as we are one.
When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me,
and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction,
in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
But now I am coming to you.
I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely.
I gave them your word, and the world hated them,
because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.
John 17:11-19

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2 Responses to An Encounter at the Airport

  1. Raoul says:

    “Pope Francis tells us that the mercy of Jesus ‘is a love that is specially felt in the contact with suffering, injustice, poverty, and all human frailty, both physical and moral.’” These were choiced words and it was as if, Verne, you wrote them with a quote from Pope Francis specifically for some of us. Many times we have felt God’s compassion and love welling up in us through our contact with people who practically have nothing and who barely survive even on life’s dregs. But soon after that we begin to see how God is wonderfully transforming their lives and ours. Thank you for the beautiful article.

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