What do you think of Pope Francis? I view the Pope as a humble, compassionate man, desirous of making us aware of the need for dialogue in a day when, as Harold Smith at Christianity Today put it, “the tone of our rhetoric, across most media and even behind some closed church doors, is more rage than redemption, more disgrace than grace.” He calls for “a beautiful escape” that “transcends the bitter realism in and outside the church.” My biggest take away from the Pope is this – stick to your convictions but have an open and gracious spirit to those who oppose you. His primary concern is showing mercy, not trying to please either the left or the right.
I am fascinated by the relationship between Raul Castro and Pope Francis. Remember the Castro brothers (Fidel and Raul) have governed Cuba as an atheistic society since the early 60’s. Last May Raul payed a visit to the Vatican. He can away from his meeting, being quoted as saying, “If the Pope continues this way I will go back to praying and go back to the church, and I’m not joking.” Quite an admitting for the leader of an atheistic society. Raul admitted that he “always studied at Jesuit schools.” He promised the when the Pope came to Cuba he would go to all his masses. It seems like a spiritual fire was ignited in his soul.
What brought about this stirring? Could it be the Pope’s desire for dialogue? He said to the bishops, “I cannot ever tire of encouraging you to dialogue fearlessly.” I want to suggest that in the days to come dialogue, will be an effective means of influencing men to consider Jesus as Lord. Look at what dialogue is doing in the soul of Raul Castro. David Benner describes dialogue as involving, “shared inquiry designed to increase awareness and understanding of all parties. In dialogue I attempt to share how I experience the world and seek to understand how you do also. In this process each participant touches and is touched by others.” In other words, I don’t give up my convictions, but I am deeply desirous to hear the heart of the other by showing mercy. I become a good listener of another person’s soul.
Pope Francis is secure enough in his relationship with the Lord, so as to invite sincere dialogue with others. That is partly why he is so controversial. He know what he believes, is motivated by the love of Jesus, and has a genuine love of people. He desires to show mercy to those he encounters. Dialogue begins with a deep respect for the other. In dialogue we see others through the eyes of Jesus as unique and wonderful made in his image. It can be a frightening prospect to share our deepest self with another. A fear of intimacy and lack of control cause us to pull back from genuine dialogue. But not the Pope. He gets in “hot water” with both the left and right.
Dialogue and the Pope’s call for mercy are key components in our witness to a hostile, indifferent culture. The Lord knows what the Pope is up against. The Pope’s official motto is, “choosing through the eyes of mercy.” May we as men be willing to see others through the eyes of mercy as we dialogue with those in our sphere of influence. Look what is happening to Raul Castro after all these years in “a spiritual wilderness.” Who are the lonely men waiting to have dialogue with you? Can you choose to see them through the eyes of mercy?