Many reports and commentaries on the recent trip by Pope Francis to South America were eager to interpret his words from a political perspective. While the Pope did make reference to some political and economic issues it was in the context of a spiritual message which was by far the key theme.
Pope Francis made this clear right from the start, during his address on arriving at the airport in Ecuador last Sunday.
We find in the Gospel, he said, “a key to meeting contemporary challenges, respecting differences, fostering dialogue and full participation, so that the growth in progress and development already registered will be strengthened and ensure a better future for everyone, with particular concern for the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters.”
The family was another recurring theme in the Pope’s addresses. In his homily at Samanes Park in Ecuador he mentioned the synod on the family to be held later this year and asked for prayers, both for this event and for families in general.
Pope Francis returned to the family during his address at the San Francisco church in Quito, Ecuador. He highlighted the importance of each member in a family working for the common good of all. He also commented that the values of family life could do a lot to help society in general.
“In the family, we find the basic values of love, fraternity and mutual respect, which translate into essential values for society as a whole: gratuitousness, solidarity and subsidiarity.”
If only we could view our neighbors and society in the same way we consider members of our family, and then reflect that in our actions society would greatly benefit.
“In an age when basic values are often neglected or distorted, the family merits special attention on the part of those responsible for the common good, since it is the basic cell of society,” the Pope added on arriving at the airport in La Paz, Bolivia.
In striving to apply to society the lessons learnt in the family we can learn a lot from the example of Mary. The Pope’s homily at Samanes Park was a reflection on the Gospel text of the wedding feast at Cana and he pointed out how Mary was attentive to the needs of the newlyweds at Cana, and not closed in on herself.
Rather than criticizing the poor planning of the feast to the other wedding guests Mary acts to resolve the problem. She tells the servants: “Do whatever he tells you.” This, the Pope said, is an invitation to open our hearts to Jesus, who came to serve others. “Those who love know how to serve others,” Pope Francis concluded.
Jesus showed his willingness to serve others many times Pope Francis observed in speaking to clergy, religious and seminarians in Bolivia.
“One day Jesus saw us on the side of the road, wallowing in our own pain and misery, our indifference. Each one knows his or her past. He did not close his ear to our cries. He stopped, drew near and asked what he could do for us. And thanks to many witnesses, who told us, “Take heart; get up”, gradually we experienced this merciful love, this transforming love, which enabled us to see the light.”
When Pope Francis spoke about politics or economics he frequently judged them from a spiritual point of view. Thus, speaking about wars and violence in his homily at the Parque Bicentenario in Quito, Ecuador, he said that they are a manifestation of individualism and sin.
A new revolution
Jesus sends us into this world with its various forms of egoism not to be indifferent to it but to accept the challenge of being builders of unity. This task of evangelization, of bearing witness as brothers and sisters of Jesus, is the new revolution, he said.
It is the opposite of what Pope Francis described during a mass celebrated at Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, as “a mentality in which everything has a price, everything can be bought, everything is negotiable.”
Reflecting on the multiplication of the fishes and loaves the Pope said that Jesus shows us how to change from a mentality that discards others to a mindset of communion and community.
This need to include everyone was also brought up by the Pontiff in his address to a meeting of representatives of popular movements during his stay in Bolivia. We have a moral obligation, he said, to ensure a just distribution of material goods and to safeguard personal dignity.
Every country needs economic growth, he affirmed at a meeting with representatives of civil society in Paraguay. Nevertheless, in economics, business, and politics the human person should come first.
“In days to come, I would like to encourage the vocation of Christ’s disciples to share the joy of the Gospel, to be salt for the earth and light to the world,” Pope Francis said on arriving in Bolivia. This aspiration is a good key to understanding his recent trip.