(Read Part 1 here)
He is just a man.
He is a man. He is not superhuman. He does not possess any special powers.
And perhaps that's what makes this whole thing almost unbelievable. The man is not a king or a president or a general, but a simple shepherd, a humble servant. And I dare say that what this humble servant accomplished in six days was nothing short of miraculous. The layers and layers of love, wisdom and hope that he left behind will take years to uncover and sift through. Remarkably, his messages reached across class and race and religion. A true ambassador of peace, justice and mercy he reached out to all people, not just the ones in his flock.
Those who allowed his messages to sink in are forever changed, softened, strengthened, empowered, and inspired. Our trajectory has been altered. Our hearts conformed more to the heart of Christ. And the implications are truly startling as we realize:
We are like him, in our humanity.
In our sin and in our failings we are like him.
In our capacity to love, forgive, show mercy, and proclaim hope
we are just as capable as Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome.
Therein lies the true power and possibility behind the Holy Father's visit to our beloved country. We have the capacity to do what he did. Because the man is only human. He has simply decided that nothing else is more important than the work before him. The hope of the gospel flows from his mouth, the love of it's message pours out from his actions.
What could happen if we,
those of us who are just men and just women
focus on the work at hand too?
What if, like Pope Francis, simple gestures of kindness, expressions of joy, acts of mercy and attentiveness to the struggles of those around us became our main focus?
What if we allow everything else to fall away?
Streets of gold. That's what will happen. I know because I saw it first hand. I knelt in the middle of Benjamin Franklin Parkway Sunday afternoon with the people of God. And it was like that verse from Revelations:
"'Come, I will show you the wife of the bride, the wife of the Lamb.' And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming out of heaven from God. It has the glory of God and the radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal....and the street of the city is pure gold, transparent as glass." [Rev. 21:9-11, 21]
I realized that we were indeed experiencing a foretaste of heaven. Hundreds of thousands of us, kneeling in reverence and in worship. Tears streaming down our faces, hands clasped across our hearts, eyes closed in that incredible moment of total unity and at the same time, total uniqueness.
This must be what the streets of heaven look like, I thought.
Because nothing else mattered at that moment. Not our languages or our bank accounts or our health or problems or failings--Christ was what mattered. Only Christ. Adoring Him, receiving Him, seeing Him in each other--it is all that mattered. We were creating streets of gold in our midst.
What is both terrifying and exciting about Pope Francis is that he is an example of what happens when love and mercy poured out to everyone becomes the focus of our lives. Many of us are terrified because it is scary to think of what we will have to let go of in order to start or continue the work. Our pride, anger, hurt and personal agendas will have to go by the wayside. But at the same time, we are excited, renewed and energized by what we witnessed on that Parkway, or the floor of Congress, or on the front lawn of the White House or at the podium of the United Nations or at the prison and school. Ultimately, Pope Francis gave example after example of what happens when we show up and extend Christ's love and mercy to everyone. :
The prisoner embraces.
The leaders weep.
The children come.
The elderly give witness.
The hard-hearted are softened.
The seeds are planted.
The weary find rest.
Kneeling on the streets of the Parkway on Sunday, and seeing the sheer volume of people--young, old, rich, poor, black, yellow, white, and brown--my heart learned what Pope Francis must already know: When mercy is extended, the streets of gold are widened to make room for more of us broken-hearted children of God. With every act of mercy, the streets of gold begin to swell. Mercy, I learned, is most often, the key that unlocks the stranger's heart and brings him home. And that is indeed very good news.
Our family's pilgrimage to Philadelphia could not have been more beautiful. I'm certain we were able to experience such a wonderful time because of so many who prayed on our behalf. Thanks to all who covered us in prayer. If you take anything away from these few highlights from our day, take these three things:
DREAM BIG, GOD DREAMS BIGGER.
YOUR FAMILY (immediate and extended) IS YOUR MOST PRECIOUS GIFT. Do what you can to love them NOW. Small gestures of love go a long long way.
HAVE COURAGE. God will supply it and GREAT things will come of it.
(To read more of Alissa's blog posts, click here)
Oldest four pilgrims, fresh off the train.
Security check point. We made it early enough that the wait was just over an hour.
Chillin' at the security check point.
Sweet Spot to wait for Papa.
Getting lunch for everyone with a sleeping baby [like a boss].
Passing 6 hours in the same spot. [Mostly]
Worth the wait! Papa Francis!!!!
Prayers of the faithful.
My reaction to seeing this: big fat tears.
What happens when you get to receive Jesus at the Papal Mass: Joy.
End of Mass