Friday, June 21, 2013

A "Francis Effect"

An Image of Saint Francis in my Meditation Garden

A recent article in the new CNN Belief Blog features a story about the effect that Pope Francis is having on the church and the world.  The author of the blog asks,  "Can Pope Francis rescue the Catholic church?"  

Francis is a pope who refuses to dress like a king, won't live in a palace, walks among the common people, cares for the poor and marginal, touches the sick, and "tweets"out messages like:

The world tells us to seek success, power and money;
God tells us to seek humility, service and love.

In the few short months since he has been pope, Francis has been widely acclaimed as a breath of fresh air and a source of hope among Catholics and other Christians. His growing popularity has also extended to people of good will everywhere - Jews and Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus, even atheists and non- believers.

In that recent CNN blog, the world -wide impact of the ministry of Pope Francis was referred to as "The Francis Effect."

I am encouraged by Pope Francis and I do believe that his words and deeds can have a major impact on the world-wide community. What surprises me is that what Francis is doing is, in a sense, is not all that heroic. He is simply acting as an authentic Christian following in the path of Jesus. 

But what Francis does and teaches is such a stunning contrast to what the world expects of the hierarchy and the religious institutions of our day, that it makes people stop and pay attention.

In the late 12th century, religion had veered off the path and the church had lost it's way, when Francis from the town of Assisi came onto the scene. He rejected his old life of wealth and privilege, and devoted himself to being a faithful disciple of Jesus. He gave himself over to following the Jesus' path. 

So, like Jesus, he walked among the outcasts, touched the sick, and spent his life building a better world in which the dignity of every human being would be respected. If they had tweets back then, he certainly would have said.
The world tells us to seek success, power and money;
God tells us to seek humility, service and love.

Seven centuries ago, the life of Francis stood as a bold contradiction to the prevailing culture of church and society of his day. His life pointed the powerful institution of the church back to the Jesus' way. The "Francis Effect" in the 12th century was astonishing. His simple little life, devoted to following the path of Jesus, literally changed the world.

I'm not sure if Pope Francis can rescue the Catholic church today.  But I do know that the life of any one of us can make a difference, maybe a significant difference.

If Christians would actually follow Jesus' way, if people of the Torah would live according to the law of love, if the followers of Islam and the disciples of the Buddha would live according to the core principles of compassion inherent in these traditions; and if non-believers would adopt a worldview that cherished compassion for others over self-gratification, then the world would change, little by little,  one life at a time.

More than ever, people in the world today hunger and thirst to live in a world of compassion and respect. 
The world tells us to seek success, power and money;
God tells us to seek humility, service and love.

Each and every one of us, human beings, on this little planet called earth are called to lead a life that will have a "Francis Effect."

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