Pope Francis → Jesus
As you may have heard, Pope Francis was in Philadelphia recently. And I happen to live in Philly. Did I see him, you ask? Well, no. Not if you don’t count catching a few brief glimpses of his vestments through the trees and crowds during Mass on a Jumbotron stationed just half a mile from where he was. Was I disappointed? Strangely enough, no. I wasn’t. Did my day turn out differently than I expected, than I hoped it would? Absolutely it did. But God showed me a beautiful truth that day, one I won’t soon forget. I started this off with the title “Pope Francis < Jesus,” but that didn’t quite capture the spirit of the thing. You see, the reason Pope Francis matters is because of Jesus. His joy, humility, compassion come from Jesus. What attracts people to him is truth, beauty, and goodness: Jesus. We see Jesus in Pope Francis, and we love him for it.
I’ll admit, I wanted a picture. I wanted the stories for my grandchildren. I wanted to share in the delight of all those who came close to him, who witnessed his palpable love. But you can’t always get what you want. But I did get what I needed. (Thank you, Rolling Stones.) Instead of an up close and personal encounter with our Holy Father, I got three and a half hours in line for security and a healthy dose of patience. I got a new friendship with a family from Uruguay and a book club invitation from their sweet seven year-old. I got not one but three run-ins with friends amidst the crowd of hundreds of thousands (or was it a million?), an unquestionable answer to a fervent prayer. And just as I passed through those blessed security gates, I began to hear those ever familiar words of the Eucharistic prayer, words my ears have grown accustomed to over the years, words I could recite in my sleep.
And a new prayer arose from my heart: Oh, Jesus, I want to receive you. It was a hunger akin to the one you may feel as you pass by a steaming buffet with an empty stomach. My craning neck turned from the direction of the Jumbotron to the Vatican umbrellas moving purposefully through the parted crowd, signifying priests come to distribute the Eucharist. I stood among a sea of others, our shoulders rubbing as we shifted our tired feet from side to side. And I set my eyes, my heart, my hunger on Him. My longing for that spiritual food welled up within me, and I tried to restrain the urge to elbow my way through the huddled mass. I did temper my itching feet and beating heart and assumed my place in a haphazard line to the nearest priest.
And I made it. I made it to the front, to the Bread of Life, to the object of my greatest desire. I received Jesus and found my way to an open clump of grass, kneeling in triumphant gratitude. I listened to the chatter of those around me, the complaints of tired children, and the still, small voice that filled my heart. I wouldn’t have thought so that morning, but I truly did get what I came for. It wasn’t in the form of a holy and grandfatherly man I’d initially sought, but rather a little host transformed into the One who can truly fulfill my every desire.