As I type this, I am watching the coverage from Rio, where Pope Francis is participating in the 28th World Youth Day. With amazing stamina and overt joy, the Holy Father seems to be throwing himself into all of his activities, “small” and “large.” Visiting the poor, stopping to bless the sick, addressing the estimated one million plus who have come to celebrate World Youth Day, the Holy Father is in all ways present.
Who would guess, if they didn’t know, that Pope Francis only has one lung and is in his late 70s?!
Three things impress me about this remarkable man on this high-octane, exhausting trip, the first that he has taken to Latin America since he became pope.
First, Pope Francis exudes joy. Physically, he might have tremendous challenges. But spiritually, he is filled with deep joy and it shows. He smiles, laughs, pauses for a friendly word with those who approach him. What a lesson for us – joy of the spirit can impact our ability to enjoy those activities that are required of us, even if they are tiring (or tiresome).
Second, Pope Francis reaches out. During this visit to Brazil, he has spoken about “going forth,” “going out,” and not remaining still. I think this resonates from the first point: If you are filled with joy, no matter your age or physical make-up, you cannot help but reach out to the world, to others. Even if you are bedridden, or home-bound, you can reach out in prayer and other ways, too.
Third, Pope Francis prays. Several times, at different points, he has bowed his head in prayer or called for others to pray for sweeping petitions or individuals touched by tragedy. From this very profound example, I take away the lesson that, even if we do reach out, exude joy, and participate in worldy activites (or activities in the world), we cannot forget the importance and power of prayer. It is a support and a strength at all times, especially when we are “working in the vineyard.”
Encouraging and inspiring – this visit to Rio certainly reflects God’s love and vitality. And it reminds us that age and health challenges need not be barriers. When God calls us, we go!
Blessings for the day,