a flowing fountain in the desert heat
On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, a young Black woman by the name of Rosa Parks refused to obey a bus driver's order to give up her bus seat to a White passenger. It was a small act of disobedience - a "drop in the bucket" in the cause of standing against the tyranny of White supremacy. Yet this one little act sewed a seed that would sprout into a movement which would change the face of the earth. That "drop in the bucket" would become a "river of justice."
Yesterday, Pope Francis held an informal news conference while traveling on the jet carrying him back to Rome after his visit to Brazil. He was asked about Gay priests and about Gay people in general. His response:
If someone is Gay and he searches for the Lord, and has good will,
who am I to judge?
As I see it, what happened on that plane bound for Rome is quite similar to what happened on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama back in 1955. Although it may appear like a "drop in the bucket," I am convinced that this one little sentence spoken by a pope on that airplane has the potential to unleash a river of justice in the cause of promoting human dignity throughout the entire world.
All day long yesterday, I listened to pundits of every stripe offering opinions on the Pope's statement. There were some who downplayed the significance of what he said, decrying the fact that the official church still condemns homosexuality as a sin. Official Vatican sources even weighed in on it by reminding the world that the church's doctrine hadn't changed a bit by what the Pope had to say.
But, as one seasoned Vatican commentator noted in today's New York Times, "This was a Sea Change."
For one thing, when have you ever heard a pope (any pope) say "Who am I to judge?' Throughout history, judgement had been the "order of the day" for the established church; and this has been particularly true when it comes to homosexuality. Recent popes have even gone so far as declaring homosexuality to be "intrinsically evil," decreeing that Gay men should be barred from the priesthood.
When a pope says "who am I to judge?" it's a "Sea Change."
The New York Times this morning labelled the pope's remarks as "breathtakingly conciliatory." I couldn't agree more.
There are almost a billion Catholics throughout the world; and billions of other people at least pay some attention to what the pope has to say. Imagine the potential impact of this statement in the highly Catholic population of Uganda - a country that has persecuted Gay people in unfathomable ways (even considering the death penalty for anyone caught engaging in homosexual acts). Imagine what a statement like this says to the people of Russia - a country in which gangs of Russian priests have armed themselves with clubs and taken to the streets, physically assaulting homosexuals and Gay sympathizers.
Over the next few days we will probably forget about what Pope Francis had to say on board that airplane bound for Rome, but I am convinced that, whether we remember it or not, that one little phrase may have actually changed the world in ways we can only hope to imagine.
The Buddha taught:
Drop by drop is the water pot filled,
the wise man, gathering it little by little
fills himself with good
I pray that yesterday's "drop in the bucket" will indeed unleash a "river of justice."