“A tree that falls makes more noise than a forest that grows.” ~ Pope Francis
The world loves to be in control. And control is often measured in terms of wealth, power, and fame. The world’s financial and economic leaders are in panic over Greece because they can’t control the Greek people and their leaders, who are not acting out according to their (the bankers’ and the creditors’) script and prescriptions. There is not as much anxiety over what is happening in China because the leaders of the world perceive the Chinese leaders to be in control. In fact, they are so in total control, they expect their citizens to follow their rules, or else . . . .
I know I am not in control. God is in control. I have often succumbed to the ways of the world, thinking I am in control. In my own time, I have sought wealth, power and fame. I have made noises and tried to claim my own place in the sun. But I have realized that there is more growth in the the silently growing forest than in the the hustling and the bustling of the rat race.
And here comes Pope Francis, eschewing the world’s insatiable quest for wealth, power, and fame. Instead, he proclaims mercy and forgiveness, love and compassion, inclusion and going out into the fringes and peripheries. In many secular cultures and societies today, the Church has been driven into the peripheries.
There were times in the past, the Church used to enjoy and dispense great material wealth and riches. Today, the Church is out of the loop when it comes to global talks and discussions about money and finances. These are done in Wall Street and other financial centers, not the Vatican.
There were times in the past that the Church wielded great power – not only spiritual but also temporal and political. There was a time when no emperor was crowned unless blessed and sanctioned by the Pope. Today, political leaders hardly ever give a thought to what the Church has to say about world affairs. The Church has been sidelined in most political discussions and decisions.
There were times in the past when to be among the Church hierarchy was to enter a world of fame and authority. What churchmen did or decreed generally became the norms of conduct in polite society. Today, most churchmen are seen as anachronistic, specially by the young.
Yet, in being driven t the peripheries, the Church has encountered those driven into the same peripheries by the ways of the world. Wealth has become so concentrated in the hands of a few people and a few nations, the rest of the world has become poor and destitute. Power is in the hands of a handful of people, the rest of the world have become powerless and defenseless. Fame has been reserved for those with wealth and power and the rest have become mere spectators, with totally no control over their lives.
In that ironic serendipity where the Church has been driven to the fringes and peripheries, the Church has re-discovered where it should be – in the fringes and the peripheries. Pope Francis has challenged us to go out into these places and encounter the poor and the destitute, the powerless and the defenseless, the abandoned and those excluded.
In simplicity, he proclaims the good news, the joy of the gospel. He heals people of their despair and hopelessness. He drives away the devils of greed, hatred and violence. And now, the world is starting to pay attention to what he is doing and to listen to what he is saying.
God is in control. Not the world.