Pope Francis’s weeklong visit to the United States both stirred our hearts and challenged our minds. So here are three spiritual takeaways from his trip.
1. We are one body.
During his trip, Pope Francis reached out to all sorts of people who our society often marginalizes, ignores or rejects. He spent time with the homeless in Washington, with immigrant students in Harlem and inmates in Philadelphia. In doing so he reminds us that there is no one to be discarded or ignored. Moreover, there is no “other” for the Christian. It’s not about us and them. It’s all us.
2. God is love.
In some wonderfully unscripted remarks in Philadelphia, Pope Francis recounted a question a little boy asked him, “What was God doing before he created the universe?” “Dios amaba,” said Francis. God was loving. Pope Francis showed us that love not only through his homilies and speeches, but also the way he touched and kissed children, embraced the sick and infirm, and reached out to everyone he met, with love and affection. As Jesus did, he taught us love by both his words and his deeds.
3. God is near
In all three cities he visited—D.C., New York and Philly—people said the same thing to me. “I can’t believe the pope came here! To my city! I always thought of the pope as someone far away.” That reaction, very common, reminded me of the Incarnation, when God became human, in Jesus. Sometimes people think of God as far away, inaccessible. But God became one of us, in Jesus, and came into our world. People in first-century Palestine also said, “I can’t believe that God would be so near! I can’t believe he’d come here!” The pope’s nearness is a reminder of God’s nearness.
Now that Pope Francis has left many of us are also left with very intense emotions. Maybe you were even moved to tears at some point. So what do you do now? Well, first, don’t be in hurry to figure out those feelings. Let them sink in and let God help you to understand them over time. Who knows? Maybe you’re being called to live in a new way. And here’s an easy exercise to help you: Remember the time you felt the most moved by the pope. Maybe it was hearing him address Congress and mention Dorothy Day or Thomas Merton. Or seeing him in the classroom with the kids in Harlem. Or embracing the boy with cerebral palsy. Recall those moments. Savor them. Then thank God for them.
And then, as he asked us to, Pray for Pope Francis.