It has been an amazing week for sure! A couple of years ago when planning for the World Meeting of Families started we had no idea if Pope Francis would be able to attend. We could never have imagined what the events of this past week could have looked like or what the impact would be on the United States and the American Catholic Church. But something has happened here in the past 6 or 7 days that perhaps has changed the landscape of what and who we are as Catholics.
I am cautious about being too dramatic about what has happened. When Pope John Paul II visited the US there were great crowds and a sense of pride in being Catholic, and he visited us 7 times during his pontificate. Pope Benedict XVI visited the US as well. But this time, judging by all the comments in social media, Catholic media, and even mainstream media, something seems quite different. John Boehner was not the only one who was emotional this week. To see people react like the Beatles first coming to the US, and this for a simple man in a Fiat, seems like the events of a parallel universe. Indeed, something has changed. We can say it is a greater sense of mercy, or a renewed pride of our Faith, but I would say it is much more complicated than that. Pope Francis has given us many things in this past week. I think the effect of all these gifts can be summed up in one word: relevance.
Today, Catholics are more relevant to the society than just a week ago. Pope Francis has spoken with fortitude against apathy, with divine truth against earthly power, and love against division. He has inserted Jesus into the discussions of politics, both domestic and global. By eating with the homeless instead of the ruling class, he has shifted the balance of perceived power and reminded us of where true power rested all along. And he has done this all with a smile and a joy in the Lord that is contagious. All this has the power to bring people back to the Church, to evangelize those who seek a greater reality of grace in their lives, and to move human hearts to care for those who most closely resemble Christ by their brokenness.
If you are an American Catholic reading this, today you live in a world that has been tilled and planted with hearty seed. In the coming days and months, new life will be springing forth, calling us to water and care for that which is still fragile and new. But if we take to the calling with the character of Jesus Christ and the smile of a gentle Pope, a hearty harvest will await us in time. We can no longer cling to a faith that is only a part of our life. Our faith IS OUR LIFE. Pope Francis is counting on us. Jesus is counting on us.