So what did you get out of five days of Pope Francis? A bunch of Facebooked cellphone pictures and videos? A tan from Popemobile-spotting in the sun, or a cold and cough after braving rain and wind in Tacloban and Luneta? Maybe a memorable line or two that spoke to your heart and of your life.
As we ponder the papal wisdom, log on to http://w2.vatican.va/content/vatican/en.html. It lists key papal Masses and meetings and links to Francis’s speeches, both prepared and spontaneous, from each event. Here is this writer’s personal selection of the most important messages from the seven papal events, excluding the Malacañang welcome already covered this past Tuesday (“What the Pope told the President”).
‘Why do children suffer?’
Perhaps the most poignant moment in the five days of Francis was his dumbfounded admission at the meeting with young people at the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas.
Tearfully asked by 12-year-old Glyzelle Iris Palomar why God allows children to suffer, the Holy Father admitted having no answer.
Sure, one can mouth theological and philosophical arguments why God permits suffering. But that does nothing for children or anybody else in pain. Rather, Francis points out the only reply that can offer both understanding and comfort:
“Let’s learn to weep, the way [Glyzelle] taught us today. Let’s not forget this witness. She asked the big question — why do children suffer? — by weeping; and the big answer which we can give, all of us, is to learn how to weep.
“In the Gospel, Jesus wept. … If you don’t learn how to weep, you are not a good Christian.
And this is a challenge. Jun Chura and his friend [Glyzelle] who spoke today posed this challenge. When they ask us: Why do children suffer? Why does this or that tragedy occur in life?, let us respond either by silence or with a word born of tears. Be brave. Don’t be afraid to cry!”
To Yolanda victims at the Tacloban airport mass the Holy Father offered a similar message of divine comfort, highlighting how Jesus gives us comfort by going through the harshest of human suffering:
“I am here to tell you that Jesus is Lord; that Jesus does not disappoint. ‘Father,’ one of you may tell me, ‘he disappointed me because I lost my house, I lost my family, I lost everything I had, I am sick.’ What you say is true and I respect your feelings, but I see him there, nailed to the cross, and from there he does not disappoint us. …
“Let us be still for a moment and look to the Lord. He can understand us, for he experienced
all these things. And let us look to our Mother, and like that little child, let us reach out, cling to her skirts and say to her in our hearts: “Mother”. Let us make this prayer in silence; let everyone say it whatever way he or she feels…”
In sum, God suffers and weeps with us, and lifts us from our agony with his saving grace and power, as he has done for humankind through the ages.
Dream, rest and rise
In the January 16 meeting with families at the SM Arena, Pope Francis offered a three-ingredient formula for family love and happiness: dream, rest, and rise:
“I am very fond of dreams in families. For nine months every mother and father dream about their baby. Am I right? [Yes!] They dream about what kind of child he or she will be…
So I ask you each evening, when you make your examination of conscience, to also ask yourselves this question: Today did I dream about my children’s future? Today did I dream about the love of my husband, my wife? Did I dream about my parents and grandparents who have gone before me? …
“Resting in the Lord. Rest is so necessary for the health of our minds and bodies, and often so difficult to achieve due to the many demands placed on us. But rest is also essential for our spiritual health, so that we can hear God’s voice and understand what he asks of us. … You must make time each day to rest in the Lord, to pray. To pray is to rest in the Lord.
“But you may say to me: Holy Father, I know that; I want to pray, but there is so much work to do! I must care for my children; I have chores in the home; I am too tired even to sleep well. I know. This may be true, but if we do not pray, we will not know the most important thing of all: God’s will for us. And for all our activity, our busy-ness, without prayer we will accomplish very little.
“Next, rising with Jesus and Mary. Those precious moments of repose, of resting with the Lord in prayer, are moments we might wish to prolong. But like Saint Joseph, once we have heard God’s voice, we must rise from our slumber; we must get up and act. … We have to be deeply engaged with the world, but with the power of prayer. Each of us, in fact, has a special role in preparing for the coming of God’s kingdom in our world.”
So, as Francis tells it, after dreaming of good things to strive for, and resting in the Lord to know his will, we rise, struggle and sacrifice that his kingdom may come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.