Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Person of the Year

It was announced this morning that Pope Francis has been named as Time Magazine's "Person of the Year."  The Person of the Year designation means that the person whom the editors of Time selected has had a great impact on the world. That impact can be either negative or positive.  It must be remembered that at one time Adolph Hitler was given this distinction.

Pope Francis is an excellent choice and I say that not because I am Catholic, but because of what he has brought to the world's attention as head of the one billion plus member Roman Catholic Church.

Pope Francis, much as his namesake Saint Francis of Assisi, has begun to focus the Church's attention, and through the Church, the world's, on the marginalized of society.  And the numbers of the marginalized throughout the world are legion in number.

They include the impoverished, the politically exiled, those enslaved by the scourge of alcohol and drug addiction, victims of domestic violence, those who have been persecuted because of their religion, and of course, the unborn who are being slaughtered in huge numbers every year through abortion.  There are countless others who are marginalized and, sadly, too numerous to mention.  

The Pope has called attention to these people not only through his teaching which can be found in his recent Apostolic Exhortation, "The Joy of the Gospel."  More importantly, the world's attention has been drawn to them through the Pope's actions and example.  

Recently, it was announced by the Vatican that Pope Francis often sets out at night from the Vatican dressed as an ordinary priest for the purpose of helping the poor and feeding the hungry.  The only reason the Vatican admitted to this is because many people began to realize just who it was they often spotted on the streets of Rome.  Unlike other public figures, the Pope did not do this for a "photo op!"

In addition to this remarkable gesture, the Pope's frequent homilies and teachings have emphasized the plight of those whom society has deemed unworthy of attention and pushed to the margins as useless pieces of dirt to be ignored and forgotten.  However, the media in so many cases, would have people believe differently.

Both sides of the political spectrum have their viewpoints mostly wrong and always cynical.  

The left would have you believe that the reason that this Pope is so charismatic and so popular is that he is changing Church policy and teaching on such important issues as gay marriage, abortion, and women being ordained into the priesthood. To be blunt, none of these things are true.  The Pope is not changing teaching on any of these subjects.  To the contrary, he continues to strenuously uphold these long-term teachings of the Church.  

On the right, the political pundits and radio talk show hosts would have you believe that someone has gotten the ear of the Pope and have convinced him that capitalism is the evil in the world and that the United States is the chief villain because of its wealth and power. Some have gone so far as to even call him a Marxist.  These allegations are not true either.

In the past, two other pontiffs were named as "Persons of the Year."  Blessed Pope John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II were both were honored with this designation.  Ironically, both pontiffs also had a deep and abiding concern for the marginalized of society.

The truth of the matter is this.  Pope Francis is not a political being nor is he injecting himself into the political world.  It was often noted that Blessed Pope John Paul II would ask visitors to the Vatican what was going on in their world. His interest was not politics.  His interest, by his own admission, was to see what the Holy Spirit was doing in the world at that moment.  The same is true for this pontiff.  The Pope knows that our God is alive and well and acting throughout the world.

The Holy Spirit is certainly working in the world through this Pope.  He has the charisma to capture the attention the world's attention and even though that media is missing his profound points, the Spirit is working in the world with the message he projects, distorted as it may be.

If I judge the Holy Father correctly, I believe he would refer us to someone else to be designated as "Person of the Year."  And that Person is Jesus Christ in whose honor we will all soon gather in celebration of what might be called the "Day of the Year," Christmas Day!