We live in an age of excess – where everything is not enough; money, career, possession, you name it, it’s just not enough! – our culture has thought us to accumulate more, that the world is our oyster and is ours for the taking. And the world had rewarded us for ambition, for thinking big and for living life large. Don’t believe me? Just ask how many of your friends upgraded their older cellphones (which are in working condition) for another new more sophisticated phone?
However by God’s grace, he has chosen a simple man to lead his flock of more than a billion followers in this day and age. And what is this new pontificate’s message? – For the church to be poor and for the poor.
I had to admit when I first read his message on the poor I was immediately taken aback. DoesHe wants us to be poor? Only then after careful reading did I realize what he meant was to live in humility and to be humble – something which is severely lacking in today’s world. You would think though that he would have chosen to address more pressing issues – pedophilic priests, the Vatican leak issues, and all the other major scandals that has somewhat wounded and rocked Holy Mother Church.
And yet, Pope Francis (named after St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan Order and himself a man who gave up riches to live with the poor and serve for the poor) has called for humility and humbleness at a time where the world is pounding their table for answers, demanding reparations on all the alleged crimes that has been made by the Catholic Church.
However I tend to think otherwise. For us young people, we can learn a thing or two about being humble and simple. We are a product and a generation of instant gratification – a generation that has learnt that it can get whatever it wants, whenever it wants and however it wants thus eroding deep values such as humility and kindness. Fed by instant gratification, we no longer live for Him, let alone others; rather we now subconsciously live for ourselves and our self-pleasures. (Ever noticed why the world’s most popular gadgetsbegins with an ‘i’?). And perhaps its timely that this pope has come in to usher a breath of fresh air – to remind the world, especially us young people that life isn’t all about the self, that there is a greater God that we serve and a greater need that we need to address – the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed.
I also want to add a point here to stress on the word poor– the poor does not refer to only those who are in poverty or in dire financial needs. The poor could be anyone who could be lacking love, could be lacking hope and whose lives are going down the drain. As youths, we often forget we have so many such people around us; our colleagues at work, our friends at school or even our family members at home who need our affection and care. It’s so much more easier for us young adults to use our resourcefulness to raise awareness to support a just cause (just how many of us have leveraged on Facebook and the social media for such things?) than it is for us to call up our aging parents and humble ourselves before them and spend our “precious” time with them. How many of us even ‘check-in’on our siblings to see how they are keeping?
Caring for the poor is also more than just a touch-and-go feeling based. It’s more than just organizing an afternoon session to go spend time with the less privileged and “kumbaya” with them and in the evening returning home to our comfort zones and clearing our conscience and justifying our actions by saying “I did a good thing today” and patting ourselves on the shoulder. Feeding the poor is not to feed to your ego, but rather to give yourself completely and unselfishly away. To love the poor means to agape the poor – to give ourselves completely for the other person. Self-pride, self-glory is out of the window. It’s all about the other person, not the man in the mirror.
But it does start with the man in the mirror. It starts with us taking a conscious effort to reach out to those around us – our family, our close friends, our BEC members and youth members. There’s no point in loving a homeless person if you can’t reconcile with your parents or siblings. And Pope Francis reminds us about this – to be humble, to be meek and to serve the poor around us with great charity and sincerity.