“And this is the first word that I want to tell you: 'Joy!' Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement!
“Ours is not a joy that comes from having many possessions, but it comes from having encountered a Person, Jesus, who is among us. It comes from knowing that with him we are never alone, even at difficult moments, even when our life’s journey comes up against problems and obstacles that seem insurmountable, and there are so many of them! This is the moment when the enemy comes, when the devil, often times dressed as an angel, comes and insidiously tells us his word. Don't listen to him!
“Follow Jesus! We accompany, we follow Jesus, but above all we know that he accompanies us and carries us on his shoulders. This is our joy; this is the hope that we must bring to this world of ours.”
Excerpt from his first homily as Pope, Palm Sunday, March 24, 2013
The humility and joy of Pope Francis catches us off guard. We have a certain mind-set in approaching what a Pope says. We expect to be educated and inspired, but not with such an obvious truth! Not in the depth of simple words. We expect theology, not practicality; complicated discourses to ponder, not our immediate heart reaction of “I get it!”
Like Mary, he points us to Jesus, telling us Jesus brings us joy as he walks among us. Pope Francis tells us to follow Jesus so closely that we are never alone, sad or disappointed. We are never defeated by the enemy even when the devil hides behind an angelic facade.
Pope Francis reminds us that Jesus carries us on his shoulders. How lamb-like is that? To follow Jesus so intimately that we wrap around his neck!
I see Pope Francis, our new Shepherd, carrying us wounded lambs on his shoulders wherever he goes. He caresses us with his every healing word as he caresses the disabled man, kisses the babies and washes the feet of the prisoners.
He declares that Jesus is our hope, and cautions us that hope is vulnerable to the deceptive arguments of the enemy. We are to guard that hope that Jesus gives us. Why? So we will know his joy and banish discouragement. So we will bring this joy to our world, as our dear Pope Francis brings joy to us.
How can we not follow Jesus with so unpretentious a model?
(© 2013 Nancy H C Ward)