Our first reading from the Book of Wisdom seems to foreshadow the hostility of the Jewish leaders toward Jesus, an hostility best summed up in the words of the high priest,’ it is expedient that one man die for the good of the nation.’
The man described in our first reading is a true and faithful Jew living in Alexandria. His faithfulness to the law is a bother to many of his fellow Jews who had fallen away from their ancient faith. It irritated them to see hid silent protest of faithfulness. They mocked his way of life and plotted to bring him down.
The church applies their devious plots to those who were determined to bring Jesus down and silence once and for all the truth he told about their hypocrisy and unfaithfulness.
Jesus spoke the truth to power, he bore witness to the truth and it cost him his life. He spoke out for and stood with the poor and oppressed. He was there for the sick, the leper and the lame. He gave sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf. He had a knack for turning things upside down. Whoever heard of the poor being called blest? Whoever heard of the meek taking over the earth? Whoever heard of praying for and forgiving your enemies? Such teaching could give people ideas, make them expect a better life and threaten the good life, the entitled life lived by the few.
As in Alexandria so in Jerusalem the decision was, ’let us test him with insult and torture and make a trial of his forbearance, let us condemn him to a shameful death.’
From September 22nd til the 25th Pope Francis will visit the United States, just after his trip to Cuba. He has a heavy schedule. He’ll visit the White House, meet with the American bishops, he’ll speak to the joint session of congress, and he’ll speak to the United Nations General Assembly, hold an ecumenical service at ground zero, celebrate Mass at Madison Square Gardens and finally visit and speak to the international festival of families in Philadelphia.
We can be sure that at this world wide festival of families Francis will celebrate the stable and faithful families of the world and open his heart and hopefully the church’s heart to families that are struggling and broken. He will let them know that as Pope he will help them bind up their wounds and help them find new life and love.
As usual Pope Francis will speak the truth to power. We can be sure he will not mince words when he speaks to the Congress of the U.S. and to the General Assembly. Pope Francis will challenge world leaders to care for the little people of the world, the hungry, the homeless, the refugees, the working poor and the unemployed young people of the world. You can be sure he will remind the wealthy countries of the world that we are our brother’s keeper. Pope Francis will speak of the unjust, unfair distribution of the world’s wealth and resources. We can be sure the Pope will address the globalisation of indifference and what he calls the economy of exclusion.
Echoing his name sake Francis of Assisi he will mince no words when he speaks of the ecological and environmental crisis facing all God’s creation. He will remind us we are all members of the human family and we are family, we are kin to all other life forms supported by Mother Earth. He will ask all of us to live simply that others may simply live.
These are messages the power brokers, the bankers, those who control and manipulate the wealth of the world and even people within the church don’t want to hear. What does a Pope know about finance, what does he know about science? He is out of his league. Like the faithful Jew in Alexandria, like Jesus of Nazareth Pope Francis will make life inconvenient for many of us for in Washington and in New York he speaks to all of us and asks us to face our part of the global indifference of which we all are part, as he asks us to step back from consumerism and live simply that others may simply live. During these next few weeks we should pray for the success of the Holy Father’s visit to the U.S. and the U.N. The church begins its morning prayer with these demanding words – If today you hear God’s voice harden not your hearts. May we know that God will challenge all of us in the words and messages Pope Francis will speak in the days ahead. May our hearts not be hardened but open to call to us to live and love.