Monday, September 21, 2015

Are You Following Francis?!

Papal Visit 2015

"I like that face." Fans of It's a Wonderful Life will recall that Clarence Oddbody, the angel-second-class, makes this famous remark about the film's protagonist, George Bailey.

Well, how about the face above?!

I know a number of people who say that they just love Pope Francis' face, his smile, his expressions.  Whatever "It" is, he's got It.  People with the eyes to see recognize that there is something real and warm and welcoming here.

As with our recent run of holy Holy Fathers, it makes me wonder: When we look at the face of Francis, might we also be catching a glimpse of the face of Another?  During this week of the pope's high-profile "face time" in D.C., NYC, and Philly, keep your eyes open for favorite moments within the barrage of video footage and photos of Pope Francis.  And keep your heart open for signs of the Holy Spirit at work throughout this Apostolic visit.


Following Francis can be as easy as joining 7 million others who are tracking him on Twitter @pontifex :)  But, ultimately, it will require opening our minds and hearts to hear the fullness of the Gospel Pope Francis is proclaiming, as he the successor of Peter the fisherman.

By process of elimination, the question of whether we are following Francis seems to be this:  If it's not the Holy Father, who or what are we following?! Considering the various lame alternatives--the empty promises of the world, the flesh and the devil--whom else would we follow other than Jesus in the footsteps of Francis?  St. Peter himself summed it up pretty well when he said to Jesus, "Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life" (Jn 6:68).

If we dare to walk the path of missionary discipleship, as Pope Francis likes to put it, there is no doubt that our presence in the world will make a difference in the lives of those we meet.  By rejecting the path of self-absorption and self-delusion, we will be free to accept and share the gift of the Lord's merciful love and supernatural grace.  Following Francis will thus help us see the Lord more clearly in the people whom we encounter in our daily lives.


At the end of It's a Wonderful Life, Clarence comments about the retrospective on George's life, "You see, George, you really had a wonderful life."  If we take whatever next step is appropriate in following Pope Francis, I am convinced that we will continue to experience the words of eternal life here and now.

In fact, I am certain that each of us will have a wonderful life, and that we will soon hear those familiar words from our Lord: "Well done, my good and faithful servant" (Mt 25:21)!