MY take on the Papal visit is that in this electronic age of instant communication, with images to boot, we could have encountered him without having to batter the Luneta Park, fight our way through traffic and get behind layers of people to catch a glimpse of him. If one is not of the poor that he so much wanted to interact with, no need to preempt them or fight for space with them to be physically present there for a face-to-face meeting. Same with donors – let them have their compensation by a personal encounter if that is what they dearly wanted.
Television broadcasts and the press conferences, which were also televised afterward, plus the day-to-day radio and print media reports were more than enough for the public to feel the charisma of this new Pope. Indeed, he is easy to like, difficult to disagree with, simple and humble – a contrast to what we see around here in both Church and State.
There are two things that resonate from his messages to us, to those in front of him and those farther away. The first is that we have a spiritual dimension, a soul, a higher element of our existence that we must pay attention to. Thus, he says that God is always with us in love and sympathy, in mercy and compassion. To understand and absorb this Truth, one must reflect, remove oneself from the importuning of the world, particularly of materialism, the overgrowth and now burden of our daily lives, and pray for enlightenment and detachment from unimportant worldly things. We have to appreciate silence and a kind of interregnum of isolation with prayer, from the day-to-day, in order to listen and hear the voice of God and let it reverberate in our thoughts and ambitions so as to influence us for the better, the higher, the real. Prayer is lifting one’s thoughts to God, our personal interaction with the Deity. It can come informally and simply through silence, stepping back from the daily routine into aloneness, which in turn gives the perspective to existence that we all need to be reminded and ever aware of.
The second is to see and feel for the poor among us and follow our Christian tenet of ‘loving your neighbor as yourself.’ In this society, one need not go very far to help the poor. They surround us, for in this country we are mostly poor. If one is humble and imbued with the charity of the beatitudes, one can do so much quietly and meaningfully to help. It is not a matter of sending big checks to church and social welfare organizations by those who can, though that will help, but of day-to-day assistance by the simple, ordinary, even poor people themselves, to those around who are in need – your own employees, your own relatives in deprived circumstances, your own neighbors who are counted as poverty-stricken, orphans nearby whose parents are dead or absent, the youth who do not have the means to continue their education or are neglected, sick people who cannot afford medication or even attention, people caught unprepared for deaths in their families with no means for a decent ceremony or burial to alleviate the pain of bereavement. There is much need and the ever present opportunity to help. Even poor people can be charitable. One does not need to look far or go far, they are around us and we can help them in our individual ways.
An act of charity is not meant to be an easy, inexpensive or effortless action. That would be giving the crumbs off your table and not mean much if the effort is painless, almost a thoughtless way of giving. Real charity comes with real pain, one gives up something one wants in order to give it to another who needs it more. Many think that charity should come from the surfeit that one has and thus, does not cause any vacuum or want to whoever dispenses it. Christian charity is meant to be more, it is giving a part of oneself through something that one values, something that is comforting or accommodating. You give it up to give it to someone who needs it more than you do in relative terms. A fancy gown for a social event is given up to donate its monetary equivalent to the neighbor in need. A restaurant outing expense is, instead, channeled to a hungrier neighbor, a chunk of earned income is given away to help a cause, a person, alleviate a need.
In the case of the poor, Justice is the other face of loving one’s neighbor. Are employers paying their employees fair wages? Not the minimum wage, but a wage compensatory with the profits they make with the help of their employees? A fair wage has to go beyond the minimum for businesses that earn above the minimum. Can their employees on their wages afford decent housing, education, medical care and other basic necessities? Are they treated fairly in terms of what they give and get in return? If one were prayerful and reflective, aware of one’s own soul enough to rise above materialistic goals, these questions will be present and evince the right answers.
Pope Francis gave many homilies but they can all be reduced to the above. Let us, as individuals, think of God in relation to ourselves. Let us help the poor around us. This is what we all need to do in this country at this time.