Pope Francis, as we speak, is in Cuba. Having Celebrated Mass in Revolution Square this morning, has met with Raul Castro and today, his brother Fidel. It was an informal but cordial meeting between the two men.
The Pope wants “Change.” Change in a good way, Change in an internal attitude way. Of leaving our safe homes and safe lives to go out in the streets and serve “the least of these” in the best way we can, from our hearts, not our minds.
He wants to unite the world in the ways of God. Francis sees God in a very particular way. He invites us to share in the divinity of God through Jesus, and come into that special spiritual awareness that comes with the resurrected Christ on Easter morning.
I admire Pope Francis a great deal, because he asks simply to serve God in each other. Because we are all formed in the image of God, and we are also, star stuff. Which means that “Divinity” exists in each of us, as we are, warts and all.
If we stopped and took a serious look at our fellows, our neighbors and our friends, we too would see that divinity.
It comes to us to “change” to be able to see it.
We are called to serve. Not for our own good, but for the good of others. For the good of God, yes, “church” would be mentioned here as well, Francis has been stripping away the trappings of “Church” for a simpler way of life. We don’t need finery or gems and gold.
Jesus once commanded his disciples to go out into the world carrying only what they had on their backs, and to do the work they were commanded.
Just the same, Francis calls us to go out and do good works.
Because it is in those works that we exemplify the spirit of God.
I am slowly working my way through The Great Reformer, Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope, written by Austen Ivereigh.
I have read a few other books about Francis. When he was elected Pope several tomes were released. Pope Francis has not escaped the past because he plays a much hated man, a much loved man, and a man who was once a very tight Jesuit priest with his own ideas and ways of life, until the time came, when God struck him and Francis had his spiritual awakening.
People have many opinions about Francis, and the role he played during the Dirty War. Was he complicit, was he flying under the radar, or was he a victim of the times as they played out before him?
Every writer I have read has painted a picture of Francis.
I do not stand in judgment of his past.
I do stand in awe of the man he became and the words he speaks and the challenges he puts before us as the leader of Holy Mother Church. Even there, he turned the Curia and the papal household on its ear, by living in Casa Santa Marta, and sharing his days working in the church, then at night, he changes into his spiritual superman suit and goes out and visits with the least of these, inviting them to dine with him and attend his morning masses at the Vatican.
There is a kernel of Holy Mother Church in me, I won’t deny that. I loved the church that educated me, the church that served me, and the church that went above and beyond to save me when I needed to be saved and looked after.
I am eternally grateful to those men who took time out of their lives to sit with me, to break bread with me, to minister to my spiritual needs, and to give me Hope and Faith, in a time when Hope and Faith were in little supply.
Churches … Many of them, Across the board, were not kind to the gays, especially us gays who had AIDS, because it was said that we got what was coming to us from God himself as punishment for our sinful lives.
I can say this with total confidence … I have NEVER met a man of God who EVER pointed a damning finger at me and said that God was punishing me for any reason whatsoever.
That is a thing …
We’ve talked of God these past few days again. God has been in high rotation for a while now, and I really did not have anything substantive to write, but it was coming.
We read “An Artists Conception” tonight. It opens with this quote from Appendix II in the back of the Big Book, in regards to Spiritual experience.
“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance –
That principle is contempt prior to investigation.”
Our man has a serious problem. And he knows what the problem is, Alcoholism. He has investigated the issue backwards and forwards, but he lacks one thing; the spiritual approach, because like many of us, religion is a nasty word, because of the taste it left in our mouths.
But he meets one man, who shows him the way, humbly and quietly. And our man GETS IT. Then he meets twenty other men who also have gotten it. And the desire to drink becomes pointless against all of his other problems. But he never picks up a drink again.
He says that it wasn’t the words they used, or the book they were reading, but there was an invisible force that he recognized. He saw it. And in some miraculous way, he finds that power greater than himself.
Many of our folks are still trying to figure it out for themselves. God as an intellectual pursuit is a rather hard task. But if you stick around long enough, you will find it, sure enough.
Did I tell you the time I met God ???
Yes, I have. Over and Over again. It is the best story I have in my bank.
After listening to my friend vacillate and try to figure out who God is for them, I had twenty minutes to state my case. And I tell them of the horrors I was living in the nineties. And how my life came to a crashing end when I was diagnosed with AIDS, and was told to go home, kiss my ass goodbye and wait to die.
I made one phone call that changed my life.
I had actually made several other calls that did not pan out.
So that one call I made was to Provincetown.
Todd and Roy returned from their holidays early because I needed help.
When Todd stepped up, it was because he loved me. He chose me to save, in the way he chose to do that. He concentrated everything he had into me in those first two years that saved my life.
Meanwhile, at the bar, all of my friends were approaching death in exactly the way they chose. living fast and leaving a good looking corpse. Well, how good of a corpse is it when it is riddled with K.S. stricken with disease, plowed with exotic drugs and tanked on the best liquor a bar tender could pour ?
I had no other choice. Well, I did have a choice.
I could have taken that route myself. Todd had other plans for me.
He began to teach me how to live, with the reminder that BOB was in the cemetery right across the street from the bar. And if I was not willing to try to live, that I would end up there myself.
When I needed God, He came. I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, that I know what God looks like, I know His voice and I know for sure that He was with me in my hours of need.
And I looked at my friends after telling this story, (with more words used to get the point across) that if they need proof that God does exist, they need not look any further than myself.
I lived. I did not die. Because God saved me.
But like any mortal man, addiction knows no bounds. I forgot …
But when I returned, I said a single prayer to God for help.
And let me tell you, I prayed a specific prayer for specific needs in a specific order.
- I prayed for the desire to drink to leave me
- I needed an alcoholic to come to me, and
- I needed to get to a meeting.
Nothing is too difficult for God when we really need help. Because He moved heaven and earth and provided me that prayer in the order it went out, as if to say,
“Hey there, I got your back!”
Not a day goes by that I do not remember where I came from. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Todd. Not a day goes by that I am not grateful for something. However, I admit, freely, that gratitude is not something I think about constantly.
It is an action.
I’ve chosen to live out my gratitude in my “Presence” to my friends. Like Francis calls us to do, I go out and I serve the “least of these” and those who need the love and faith I have.
Which leads nicely into the next portion of tonight’s read … The Baby
I work every day to be a man of honor, courage and strength. I work every day to make the right decisions, and to be of maximum service to my fellows. And let me tell you, that does not come easily. Creating family is difficult. Maintaining family is challenging. Taking care of a baby is the most rewarding experience I can share in today.
Today, I got an entire afternoon with the baby, we had some lunch. She would not eat her food, by herself, so she did eat when I offered food to her. hen we played for a while with her blocks, but that did not last very long.
So we dressed her and popped her into her stroller and went to the park. This was our first park outing together. And we passed a few of my friends on the way, and it was said to me that “we probably started tongues wagging …” but you only live once.
We did some swings. We did some slides, and some playground rides. We played in the sand and got dirty. It was just me and the baby. It was the most wonderful feeling. There were screaming kids all over the playground, and their parents watching closely, and for a while, I was one of those parents, playing with his child.
It was immense …
I want to close with some thought’s by Pope Francis.
“Archbishop Quarracino invited Bergoglio in January and April 1990 to give retreats to dozens of his clergy in La Plata. In the first, “Our flesh in Prayer,” Bergoglio reflected powerfully on Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, the story of the foreigner who comes to the aid of a traveler beaten by brigands. He showed that those who passed on the other side – symbolized in Jesus’s telling by the priest and the Levite – used a series of distancing techniques, which were all temptations: either they intellectualized the suffering they saw, or evaded the responsibility for it by reassuring themselves that this is how life was.
The Samaritan, on the other hand, got on his hands and knees to get close to the victim, opened his heart to him and bound his wounds, shouldered him and spent his money on him. “That is what we will be judged on,” Bergoglio told the priests, adding that this proximity was at the heart of the Incarnation. Jesus, far from “passing on the other side,” paid the ultimate price in sacrificing his own flesh for those who suffer; and God’s closeness to humanity is the reason why “Prayer touches our flesh in its very nucleus, it touches our heart.”
Prayer, he told the priests, meant enduring the possibility of change; it meant a willingness to suffer. When a person ceases praying and starts complaining, “he ceases to serve the Gospel and becomes a victim. He canonizes himself.” Making oneself the victim, rather than Christ, was blasphemy; and a flesh that is used to blasphemy, which does not know how to ask for help for its own wound and sin, is a flesh incapable of helping the wounds of others.”
Even if he dedicates his life to God he will only ever be able to come close to himself.: It is the asepsis of the Pharisee,” Bergoglio warned: “neither virus or vitamin.”
There is a God, and I am not He.
More to come, stay tuned …