Pope Francis Applies the Gospel

09.28.15 | by Daniel Allen

    Daniel Allen, Missioner for College Ministry & Young Adult Leadership grabbed a chance to hear Pope Francis speak in Washington, D.C.

    Last Thursday, 9-24-15, I was in Washington, D.C., to hear Pope Francis speak to Congress. I had not planned to be there, but when I received a text message invitation from Chase, a senior at Southern Methodist University, saying that he had two tickets from his congressmen and wondered if I would like to attend with him, I jumped at the chance!

    As I stood with Chase and thousands of others on the West Lawn of the Capitol on a bright fall morning, I found Pope Francis’s address to be a full-on application of the Gospel. And I found his presence pointing me to Jesus.

    Pope Francis called upon members of Congress, and all who were listening, to work together to solve critical concerns confronting the United States and the world. He focused our attention on notable individuals in the history of the United States and challenged us to learn from their example and continue their legacy of building a nation and creating a world that will truly serve the global common good.

    From Abraham Lincoln’s fight to end slavery and hold together a united country, he challenged us to end modern day slavery around the world. From Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life he called us to heal a country torn anew by racial strife. Like King, he said that America could still be a land of dreams, especially for new arrivals from foreign lands. We should view all people, he said, not as “issues” but as persons – with stories, dignity, and faces of their own.

    From Dorothy Day’s example he invited us to engage the spirit of enterprise to create jobs and work for a just distribution of wealth. By following Day’s example, he said, we could continue to fight poverty, hunger, and the very cycle of poverty itself.

    Turning his attention to Thomas Merton, Pope Francis called us to wrestle with our own inner battles so that we could end wars on the outside – wars between countries and wars against life itself. From Merton, he said, we could learn to turn to God and seek transformation.

    In each of these examples, and further remarks about caring for the unborn, the elderly, and nature itself, Pope Francis implicitly pointed the audience to the message of Jesus in Luke 4:18-19 and to the cosmological gospel of St. Paul in Colossians 1:16-28.

    Following his address, Pope Francis greeted the crowd from the balcony of the Capitol. “Pray for me,” he said to the crowd. And, paraphrasing here: “if you find you can’t pray or can’t believe, then send me kind thoughts.” That, I thought, was an astonishing statement. An astonishing posture. Pope Francis, by his humble presence and invitation, sought to build bridges to cynics, the jaded, and others turned off by religion and/or hurt by the Church.