1st of February 2015
One of the highlights of my summer this year was the wedding of my younger daughter. A wedding is a tangible sign of faith, hope and love from the couple being married and for those who hold them dear. And there was one moment in the afternoon’s proceedings that was most memorable for me: that was when my sister read St Paul’s message of love from 1 Corinthians:
Love is patient; love is kind; Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. And now faith, hope and love abide, these three; And the greatest of these is love.
Why was this reading so memorable? There are two reasons: one is that the Christian message of love which Paul wrote 2000 years ago has proved to be of timeless relevance. The other is that they were read by my sister, who is a practising Catholic and in her life is one of God’s angels sent to The result was that this reading had the ring of authority and made a deep impression on those who were present.
In short, in modern language, Jesus lovingly talked the talk and he walked this talk. And so the challenge for us today is to think of what impression we leave on those around us. How loving is our talk: do we offer words that add value to the lives of ourselves and others, and are they in line with our best moral values? And then, do we walk the talk: does our life give meaning to what we say?
Fortunately we Catholics today have a fine role model of someone who lovingly talks the talk and who walks the talk, and as a result leaves a deep impression on those around him. He has been listed by leading magazines as their person of the year and the greatest world leader. He is our Pope Francis. What does he say and do? I shall give two examples.
He stated: “Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by lowly, concrete and faithful service.”
Last year on Holy Thursday, Pope Francis visited a local church to wash the feet of 12 disabled people of different ages, ethnicities and faiths. The 78-year-old pope washed the feet of a 16-year-old paralyzed boy, a 39-year-old woman with cerebral palsy, and two elderly 86-year-olds who struggle with their day-to-day mobility.
In November last year, at a general audience in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis met a man who suffers from a rare disease causing tumours all over his body. People with this disease often face discrimination because of their appearance. Pope Francis paused for several minutes to receive the sick man in his arms. He then took the man’s face in his hands, kissed him, and gave him a blessing.
“Jesus teaches us: Go out and share your testimony, go out and interact with others, go out and share, go out and ask. But let us all remember this: one cannot proclaim the Gospel of Jesus without the tangible witness of one's life.”