Our Joyful Leader

The pope whom the Lord has given us differs from any pope in my lifetime except maybe good pope John. Francis is not a pontifex maximus, solemnly conducting lightning to and from God and us, like Pius XII and Paul VI. He’s not a philosopher or theologian, like John Paul II or Benedict XVI. He’s not a crusader, like Pius X. He’s not even a Defender of the Faith, like Pius IX.

He’s a leader, probably like Peter the Rock. He is leading us into a new state of affairs (the Age of Change) and a new mindset (Jesus’). Nothing of all the things I’ve read shows what this means as well as an interview published recently in Argentina. The bones of it lived through several abbreviations, ending in a CNS report from the Vatican. It’s the pope’s “Top Ten for Joyful Living.”

First, “Live and let live.” What else did Jesus of Nazareth do for thirty of His thirty-three years – and at Cana? Then, give yourself to others; don’t become a stagnant pond getting putrid. Go to Cana and have some wine. Then third, live calm – not like a stream rolling rocks or a roaring river, but like a calm slow-moving pool.  (Pope Francis’s imagination – I figure God must look forward to their conversations.) 

Fourth: take leisure, which means escaping from consumerism, stress, and getting into communicating with your family. Count the times Jesus “goes apart” by Himself or with the disciples “for a little rest.” And fifth – Sundays are holidays, for families.

He gets very practical with sixth: give young people real work to do, and their dignity. This one makes you wish that we knew more about Jesus the worker, who brought His pay home. And seven: take loving care of the earth. 

That practical stuff said, Francis turns again to our attitudes. Eight, stop being negative and needing to talk others down. Reminds me that Jesus turned the negative “don’t do to others…” into His own “Do unto other what you would have them do unto you.” Positive.

And nine: don’t proselytize – that’s boring and futile – just witness and appreciate others’ identities. We’re in an Age different from the other Francis’s – Xavier – who proselytized left, right, and center. Change of Age, change of approach. Don’t tell ‘em; show ‘em.

The bottom line, ten: work for peace. And the place to start that job is in our own hearts. If we’ll pause and notice, they’re full of His peace.