VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has sent retired Pope Benedict XVI his prayers and…
Pope Francis’ reaction to conflict is a lesson for us all
Let’s face it: We live in an era of unbridled conflict.
It’s everywhere. You can’t escape it. You see it in Washington, on cable news shows, on social media, even at Disney World — where every day, it seems, there is news of another fight between parents waiting in line. (It may be a small world, people, but there’s plenty of room for everyone!)
Every other person you meet seems to be walking through life with a clenched fist.
So what happened last week at the Vatican made a lot of people sit up and take notice — or should have.
As Reuters reported it: “A man interrupted Pope Francis’ general audience at the Vatican on Wednesday, shouting ‘This is not the Church of God!’ in English and waving a medical mask he had removed from his face before being taken away by police, a Reuters witness said.”
Pope Francis clearly heard the ruckus — reports indicate he probably didn’t understand what the man said — but the pope couldn’t avoid mentioning it during his remarks. In the end, he did what I think more of us should do when confronted with anger, conflict or hostility. He asked everyone in the hall to pray.
The Vatican website published the transcript of the pope’s remarks. He said: “A few minutes ago, we heard a person shouting, shouting, who had some kind of problem; I don’t know if it was physical, psychological, spiritual, but it’s one of our brothers in trouble. I would like to end by praying for him, our brother who is suffering, poor thing. If he was shouting it is because he is suffering, he has some need. Let us not be deaf to this brother’s need. Let us pray together to Our Lady for him: Hail Mary ….”
“Let us not be deaf to this brother’s need.”
For a lot of people today, the first impulse when verbally attacked — online or in person — is to fight back. Condemn. Judge. Conquer. It’s about winning at any cost. So what the pope said in response to the man who interrupted him comes as a welcome shock.
As he does so often, the pope was teaching by showing. You want to know how to be a peacemaker? A bridge-builder? Here is how.
Here is “put away the sword” in a time when everyone is sharpening their weapons, ready to attack.
Here is “turn the other cheek” for the Age of Hostility.
Here is an object lesson in how to defuse a sputtering explosion of hate.
But more than that, this moment serves as a one-sentence homily about compassion, patience and love.
“Let us not be deaf to our brother’s need” is a message intrinsic to the Gospel. It is the parable of the good Samaritan. It is the defining theme of Matthew 25. It is the mission statement of Christian charity — whether declared by a soup kitchen, a breadline, Catholic Relief Services or Operation Rice Bowl. It is a teaching that has withstood 20 centuries of hate, and that still resonates in the heart of every believing Christian: “Love one another.”
We need to remember this encounter between the Vicar of Christ and a stranger in a crowded hall. We need to remember that often the best response to the world and its troubled souls isn’t a clenched fist but an open palm. An open ear. An open heart.
So often, the cries of a wounded world demand something more than a scream in response. Maybe, a better answer is prayer, mercy and love — to see the other as, quite simply, a brother. It cannot hurt to see him as he truly is, and to listen to what he has to say.
Pope Francis put it perfectly. And for that, these simple words should be inscribed on our hearts.
“Let us not be deaf to our brother’s need.”
Deacon Greg Kandra is the creator of The Deacons Bench blog (TheDeaconsBench.com) and the author of “The Busy Person’s Guide to an Extraordinary Life” (Word Among Us Press, $14.95).