ONE week after Pope Francis flew back to Rome, many of us still have the hangover. We can’t get over the Pope Francis fever. I hope the inspiration we have drawn from him stays with us for long.
Pope Francis made many of us cry, and cry a lot. He also made us laugh with his witty remarks. His gentle smile was contagious. He showed us that his words of love and care for the children, the elderly, and disabled were genuine as he went out of his way to touch, bless, kiss, and embrace children. Best of all, he made us reflect on our faith.
Yesterday, the first Sunday after the papal visit, homilies in Catholic churches were mostly about the words that Pope Francis spoke to us from his heart; words that touched many of us deeply.
The Pope reminded us that it is all right to be emotional; that it is all right to weep and cry, and that the best lesson we should learn is how to love.
Pope Francis left us with many lessons to ponder on; lessons to live by.
His words against corruption and neglect of the poor should jolt politicians and church leaders to think, care and do something to uplift their living status.
The government, using taxpayers’ money and loans, can no longer afford to send more informal settlers for what it dubbed as “training” in a resort somewhere just to keep them away from important visitors.
This year, the Philippines will host the Asia-Pacific Economic (APEC) summit in November. There will be pre-summit meetings involving ministerial and sub-ministerial levels before that. That means many important foreign visitors coming to different parts of the country where these meetings will be held.
It will not only be tough but also very costly to hide from them the slums and the street beggars. A gentle warning about petty crimes that abound not only in the streets, crowded areas and public transport but also inside hotel lobbies and malls should be part of the security kit for them.
I hope that this is not taken as kind of downgrading the poor, but as a fair warning on the realities on the ground.
I also hope that the poor and the disadvantaged who listened to Pope Francis did not get his words out of context. Concern for the poor does not entitle them to become dependent on alms and survive on pity.
As the old adage says, you help the poor by showing them how to catch fish, not by always giving them fish to eat.
Instead of taking street dwellers to a resort on a weekend, the government should change its attitude and mindset on how to make them productive and participative members of society. How can that be done? By integrating programs and projects that will teach them skills to help them engage in something productive, and to mold them to become good citizens instead of seeing them sniffing rugby in parks, under the MRT tracks and on side streets.
A few days ago, I was interviewed for a research by a US-based international consulting agency about the cultural and social values of Filipinos, particularly the active, socio-economically mobile and their attitudes toward finances.
I don’t know what made me qualify as “someone whose expertise and perspective would make a valuable contribution to the study.” But after checking the interviewee’s legitimacy, I decided to give it a shot.
It was an interesting 90-minute interview. But toward the end, I was a bit embarrassed that I may be giving more negative than positive impression about the values that we attach to money.
More young employees would rather spend their first salary to buy modern gadgets like smart phones for their social values rather than use them as learning tools. In my generation which is not too long ago, most of my batch mates would surrender our first salary to our parents as a gesture of gratitude, and assume part of the educational needs of our younger siblings.
Our values and attitudes are changing, but, as Pope Francis has reminded in all of his public statements while he was here, our values for the family should remain. We should continue to dream with the family.
Let us reflect on what Pope Francis said in his extemporaneous message during his “Meeting with Families” at the Mall of Asia on January 16: “In the family we learn how to love, to forgive, to be generous and open, not closed and selfish. We learn to move beyond our own needs, to encounter others and share our lives with them. That is why it is so important to pray as a family!”
After the Pope’s brief visit and the many words of wisdom he shared with us, what do we do now? It should not be “back to normal” or “business as usual.”