I am still stunned by the media and social media reaction to Pope Francis’s speech before a joint session of Congress last Thursday. It was surreal listening to the Left and the Right argue that the Pope is on their side or attack him as an enemy, as if they were looking for the head of the Catholic Church to write American policy. I heard not a politician, but Christ’s representative.
The Jewish people looked for a military king to come and destroy their oppressors, but instead a carpenter came and lived as a servant king. Jesus was killed because His words and actions did not fit the mold of either party, Roman or revolutionary. Now the Pope comes to America and both parties try to mold him to their image, but instead he reflects the very image of Jesus for all who are willing to see it.
Martin Luther King Jr. surely spoke differently before a “black” church than he did before a “white” church, just as he surely spoke differently to Baptists and Catholics. The Pope had to address a diverse crowd of people, some of his own faith, some of different faiths, and some of no faith at all. He spoke as he did to maximize his chances of being heard. When leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement chanted “Pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like bacon,” many white Americans turned off their TVs. The Pope met people where they were, wishing to give no one an excuse to tune out his message of hope and love. Jesus told his apostles to “go out and make disciples of all nations,” but he didn’t say this to a crowd of strangers who didn’t know what being a disciple even meant. The Pope can hardly expect what has become a godless nation to make laws to please a God it does not recognize as its own.
Trying to bring people to Christ by telling them they are going to Hell rarely works. Instead, demonstrating love and caring for others in Christ’s name attracts people to see the difference in your heart. Perhaps another person will see your good works and be moved to start the process of asking Jesus into his heart. Then Jesus will heal that person and lead him to the holy life He calls us all to. The Pope opened what could be the doorway to Heaven for those seeking God.
The Pope is not a Republican or a Democrat, and neither is Christ. They love both and want both to spend eternity with them in Heaven. The Pope lives as a servant to all, not as a slave to a particular party or platform. He said to give, even if you have little to give. Love your neighbor, even if he is different from you. Take care of the earth as a steward, leaving it better when you go than when you came. Neither party owns these ideals, and neither should be offended by them; we just disagree on the best way to achieve them. Can we not, even for a day, leave our differences aside and pray that God will bless America?