I had a moment of deep sympathy for Pope Francis a couple weeks ago as he gazed up from his seat during Mass at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Cardinal Tim Dolan was welcoming the Pope into the midst of these 20,000 or so souls: so happy to see their Pope, so blessed to be in his presence, so profoundly moved by his visit and vision. The Cardinal pronounced, “We pray for you, by name, in all our churches every day, and now here you are; with us!”
At “with us!” the fervent arena crowd erupted in a massive, sustained, and divinely thunderous chorus of reverent cheers, shouts of “Il Pape!” and heartfelt applause. The longing of the faithful and the hopes of the lost were expansively, wonderfully expressed in this extended demonstration of love and admiration for this Pope of the Holy See, Bishop of Rome, and Vicar of Christ. This was the ultimate in Big Apple props to the Pontiff, the leader of a billion Catholics across the globe.
Why my sympathy? Because as I watched TV and saw the Pope’s gentle face smile humbly, politely, at that Garden cacophony reminiscent of an NBA Finals Game 7, I swear I saw a hint of longing in the Pope’s own eyes that reflected what I imagined Francis was feeling at that moment:
Oh, if only that cheer went up for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
I am not being cynical about this. I am a Bible Christian, not a Roman Catholic. I read and study extensively with a special focus on church history, the development of denominations, Bible literacy, and modern historical context for how the Church, faith, Christianity, religion in general, politics, culture and academia have all arrived at perhaps the most confused, chaotic, convoluted and complicated faith/political/moral moment in the history of humanity.
What I have absolute confidence in is that Pope Francis knows exactly who he is, and who he isn’t; a man, not Jesus. Is he the exclusive representative of Christ on earth? That’s a piece of Catholic doctrine other churches don’t generally share; most other doctrines say each believer is Christ’s representative on earth, or should be.
Regardless, Jesus always should be the main point.
But as Francis sat, the object of that amazing applause that shook the rafters of that enormous place, and the echoing beauty of that Roman Catholic Mass filled it with Holy peace, I am sure he humbly listened, and prayed in Jesus’ name …
That God would get the glory, not him.
Walters (firstname.lastname@example.org) doesn’t remember hearing a guitar or a praise song in any of those lovely services the Pope celebrated. Just saying …