Opening our hearts to what the pope proclaims
September 16, 2015 | posted by Today's Catholic Newspaper
By Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS
For a long time Catholics and other people of good will have been praying for Pope Francis as he prepares for his visit to the U.S. We are days away from his arrival on September 22 and we should not stop praying. One prayer I recently read also prayed for "us". It read: "Allow us to be a nation eager to listen and learn from his ideals and faith in You." This simple prayer focuses on the real reason for the pope's visit, to bring the compassionate and just message of Jesus Christ to our country and encourage us to live the ideals of our faith and the values that built our nation.
For months now, the media has tried to anticipate what the Pope will do and say. This is can be a fruitless task, for if we have learned anything about Pope Francis during his papacy, the only script he follows is in the Gospel and the one the Holy Spirit has written on his heart. In a recent interview, Ken Hackett, former President of Catholic Relief Services and the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See proposed, "He won't hesitate from speaking out about some of the issues he feels passionately about...We're a nation of great accomplishments, of people of imagination and compassion. I believe Pope Francis will call Americans to that greatness...He will push us to do even more." In order for us to move toward this greatness, we must listen to his message and watch his actions with prayerful and sincere hearts. When St. John Paul II visited San Antonio, much was written and said about the Mass attendance numbers, the pope mobile, and the heat. Unfortunately, for many, his rich message of faith, human dignity, vocations, parish life, and evangelization were obscured by adulation and the natural excitement of a papal visit.
Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will open the hearts of all who hear the Pope's voice so his visit will be remembered as a moment of Grace, in which our passions on public issues will be directed toward building an even more just and merciful society. We can be certain the Holy Father will fulfill his role as Vicar of Christ, teacher, and preacher of the Gospel. By fulfilling that role he has shaken the indifference of the world to the cries of the poor, the weak, the suffering, and the victimized.
I believe we can get a possible glimpse of the Holy Father's message for us when we consider with whom he will visit. Certainly his address to Congress will call them to craft just and merciful policies that will acknowledge the dignity and needs of the poor and the immigrant; preserve and protect the environment; defend and respect all human life. The Holy Father will also visit prisoners in Philadelphia who need to know they are not lost and they are loved by a forgiving God.
Pope Francis will visit with immigrants, including undocumented persons, to help them know the Church continues to walk with them on their long journey and that we are not blind to their plight. He will visit with the General Assembly of the United Nations challenging them to bring peace to a world suffering from injustice and violence, driving refugees from their homes and robbing them of their lives.
Each of these encounters is an opportunity for evangelization and catechesis if we allow ourselves to hear Jesus' calling us to love one another. During Pope Francis' visit, I believe we can anticipate his message will be a calling for governments, institutions, and individuals to work for the common good as the Holy Father described earlier this summer: "The common good...is much more than the sum of individual interests. It moves from “what is best for me” to “what is best for everyone”. It embraces everything which brings a people together: common purpose, shared values, and ideas which help us to look beyond our limited individual horizons." May the Holy Spirit open our hearts to all the Pope proclaims during his visit, and may we be united in this great cause.
Ven! Holy Spirit. Ven!