There’s something very special about Pope Francis. Seems like everywhere he goes, people receive him with open arms. He treats everyone with respect—everyone—from the heads of state to the ones on the street who have no home. Each person feels like the Pope is there for them personally.
If we saw some of the visits on television, we probably noticed how some folks were reaching out just to touch the Holy Father. Imagine arriving to a place on the street at 2 in the morning in order to just watch him go by at 10 am. No doubt that Pope Francis is loved by many, even the non-Catholics, maybe even the nonbelievers. After all, he doesn’t belong to just the Catholics. He is the Pope of the world. Just like Jesus didn’t come to save just the Catholics, but everybody. Little wonder that the Lord silenced the dispute of jealousy felt by the disciples when they saw others driving out demons. No one person, no one religion has a monopoly on God’s grace. That’s the message that Pope Francis is preaching everywhere he visit—reminding us that we are all one family of God. We forget, especially because we have enemies. Past history, wars, suspicions—we forget that to God we are all the same. God is not prejudice. The Lord is not concerned with our last name, our bank account, or level of education. God just sees our soul—our human dignity—our need to be loved. Can be said that all possible sins have happened when we have forgotten to be a family.
St. Mark used the imagery of the body to remind us that we are connected. None of us would want to cut off our hand, our foot, or pluck out our eye. Yet, if any part of our body causes division in the family, better to cut it off. Pretty drastic measure. Most of us read the Gospel referring to sin and cutting off body parts in the shadow of sexual sin. People think, “Must be: ‘If your hand causes you to sin, if your foot causes you to sin, if your eye causes you to sin…’ Certainly every time we sin, sex is involved.” Not true. We sometimes disregard social sin—communal sin—global sin. What Jesus preached about—what the Holy Father calls us to see is the social injustice all around us—the forgotten of society. Homeless people, the elderly, the unborn. All the places where we would rather not look—that’s where we have to look. If we do not help—better to cut off our hand. If we do not walk where we are needed—better to cut off our foot. If we do not want to see the faces of the poor—then better to pluck out our eyes.
Jesus was rarely concerned about sexual sins. We have a preoccupation with sins from the waist down. The Gospel calls us to look far beyond ourselves to the big picture. Sin is the indifference of all who have the privilege to cast their vote at election time and choose not to participate but are the loudest complainers of the elected officials. Sin is when we expect the school system to educate our children but we never spend time with them to guide them. We commit sin when we consider ourselves superior to others. Change starts with each one of us. However, we cannot just look inside—we have to look at each other—be concerned with each other. That’s the message of the Gospel. The words mean nothing unless we put them into practice. That’s why the Holy Father is so popular—because he puts the words of Jesus into practice.