The Urgency of Pope Francis
Too many of us say a few passing prayers for the wider, wounded world, contribute our loose change, blame someone or other for the situation, and feel smug about our efforts as dutiful citizens. Such shallow involvement may work wonders for personal ego-health; it does little for the eco-health of our natural home. We are called to be present to the troubles of the world in a real way. It is God’s body; it is our mother, our sister, our brother. Its inhabitants are God’s family, our family. Pope Francis writes urgently about a ‘conversion’ of our souls, a whole transformation of life-style, an ultimate dedication of our energies to saving planet Earth and the poor who cling to it in desperation.
The Pope believes that the call to a prayerful concern for our troubled world, to a conversion of our lives to save our Mother-Earth, is much more than an added-on obligation. It is a knowing in the heart, a recognising of our wider family of origin and destiny, an awakening of the divine imagination already within the human psyche. Our hearts, sacred from birth and baptism, fashioned lovingly in the divine image, somehow sense this astonishing revelation of our intimacy with the earth, and our responsibility for saving her life and the lives of those whose plight is increasingly desperate.
Our prayers are powerful when they grow from the way we see and understand the mystery of creation and incarnation. The Pope is trying to help us hold the suffering poor in a ravaged world as the greatest concern of God and of us. He wants us to live and love and serve in that non-negotiable perception. Like the artist who looks at the block of marble and sees the hidden angel, like the farmer who looks at his winter fields and sees the waving harvest, like the mystic who looks at the caterpillar and sees the butterfly, like the mid-wife who looks at the pregnant woman and sees a beautiful wee baby, like Jesus who looked into the hearts of sinners and saw their grace, so too we are called to look at our beloved, broken and beautiful earth and see the weeping face of God.
Beyond a passing sympathy we now surrender to the deepest empathy, seeing our earth and its broken-hearted family from the inside, experiencing it as we experience ourselves. We are urged to get utterly involved in a full commitment, and to do everything possible to transform Christian and universal consciousness before it is too late. In ‘praying our troubled world’ we do not stay on our knees. We need to remember in our active contemplation that Resurrection has happened. And Resurrection is about more than a miraculous moment for the crucified body of Jesus. It is the final stage of creation and Incarnation for the crucified world.
All creation is moving towards completion
Humanity, in its evolution, is moving inexorably towards the final Omega in God. Even on this weeping, warring planet we still believe in that divine dream for it. Incarnation establishes this belonging and evolving as the very purpose of our being. Deeply, essentially we are the vital voice of the earth, calling, yearning for completion. Only when we truly realise this, and live our lives with an eternal vigilance for the well-being of our Mother-Earth, will our prayers for her be salvific and transformative. Our pleas and wishes will come from the depths of our earthy hearts and bodies. These were already, and always, the living promise in the womb of the earth. When we pray for a troubled world we are praying for our own future, for the survival of our children, of all humanity, and of all creation – for all we call the incarnate body of God.
The troubled world we pray for is not out there, of course – anymore than God is. We, and the Holy Spirit who moves us to pray, and the world we pray for, are inextricably bound up together. All creation is moving towards fulfilment. It is a slow, vulnerable becoming, with terrible birth-pains. And the crucifixion continues. But so does Resurrection.
In his Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis sees a silent ‘eastering’ at work in the evolution of the planet – the same evolution that is transforming our own sense of participation and responsibility, in an unfolding future. ‘The kingdom of God is already present in this world’ he writes, ‘and is growing here and there in different ways – like the small seed that grows in a great tree . . . the kingdom is here, it returns, it struggles to flourish anew. Resurrection is already secretly woven into the fabric of history.’ Words such as these reveal to our hearts the depths of the mystery we are part of, and the urgency of our desires for its completion.
‘Praying our troubled world’ is now resounding from the heart of the universe. It is our own voice, no longer chanting from a disconnected, elevated and remote plateau but passionately pleading, on fire at the core of life, joining in the lamentations of the Indwelling Trinity, bereft with the sorrowful Mother of Life we call God. Pope Francis sees the emergence of a timeless, universal resurrection gestating at the core of the earth, like an eternal Spring. He believes in the Good Fridays of our existence, in the irrepressible birthing of Easter. He sees all evolution, all the slow growing of the world, in terms of incarnate redemption, in terms of the saving and blossoming of the earth. ‘Each day in our world,’ he reminds us, ‘beauty is born anew; it rises, transformed, through the storms of history . . . Where all seems to be dead, signs of resurrection suddenly spring up. It is an irresistible force.’