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apopeheavenToday the Roman Catholic Church calendar commemorates Christ’s choice of St. Peter as the “servant-authority” of what has become the Church. I love that decision that Scripture tells us Jesus made (MT 16:13-19) when Peter was the one – the only one – to voice an answer to the question Jesus put to the disciples about his identity: Who do you say I am? I say that the decision pleased me because in reading the gospels it seems unlikely that Peter would be the choice for such a position. He was impetuous (jumping out of a boat, thinking he could walk on water)and cowardly at times (denying Jesus to the enemy – more than once) and missing the point of amazing moments (“Let’s stay here!” on the mountain of the Transfiguration rather than returning to ministry). I don’t think Jesus overlooked these imperfections but rather made his judgment on other things he saw in Peter that came to fruition later in the game of life. Clearly, the motivating factor in Peter’s life was his love of Jesus and his willingness to acknowledge his human failings.

I don’t know if it was serendipity or clear choice that placed an article entitled “Being Human: Pope Francis Delights Many, Frustrates Some” on the americancatholic.org website this morning next to the “Saint of the Day” column. In any case, for me the analogy is quite strong. Here is a bit of what author Cindy Wooden says after the recent visit of the Pope to Mexico.

In Pope Francis, Catholics can see a real person trying to live his faith in a complicated world. Sometimes he waves at them and they can see the frayed edges of his soutane sleeve. When his sciatica is acting up, he needs extra help going down the steps. His aides do not keep his reading glasses so sometimes he fumbles with the soutane pocket trying to get them out. Crowds “ahhh” when he tenderly strokes the face of an obviously sick person and they applaud when he gives a big hug to a child. However, they can be shocked when the human side of the pope is impatience or downright anger like it was Feb. 16 in Morelia, Mexico, when one of the thousands of people who grab at the pope at public events yanked him, pulling him on top of a person seated in a wheelchair. “What’s the matter with you?” the pope snapped. “Don’t be selfish!” While security officers helped the pope back up, Pope Francis caressed the face of the boy he’d fallen on.

It’s a great article and God’s Spirit certainly knew the right thing in the choice of this successor to the “Chair of Peter.” There is much more to Pope Francis than these homely moments illustrate and the rest of the article shows. Love of God and all others as well as willingness to answer the call to humble service are the hallmarks of this Pope’s life. What an example! What a blessing he is! I will take him with me as companion today and try to follow his example in every encounter. And I will pray in thanksgiving for this extraordinary gift of presence in our Church for all the world.

 

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