(NM 11:25-29; PS 19:8, 10, 12-13, 14; JAS 5:1-6; MK 9:38-43, 45, 47-48) I sit here in a high-rise hotel in downtown Philadelphia as I write this, at the corner of 17th and Chestnut St. It’s actually Friday evening and Pope Francis is due to arrive in this city, 5 blocks from here, in less than 12 hours. This City is saturated with anticipation and excitement for his arrival, which will be an amazing conclusion to this 8th World Meeting of Families. I don’t quite know what to say. When most of you are reading this, it will be Saturday or Sunday, depending on where you live, and my family and I will be slogging it out with 1-2 million other people to see Pope Francis along Ben Franklin Parkway as he speaks at the Vigil for the Festival of Families on Saturday, and during the Papal Mass on Sunday afternoon.
This week has been so special, so filled with the Holy Spirit, even though it has been super busy. I don’t know what I am going to do when I see Pope Francis on the street, or during Mass. I just hope we can get close. But regardless, I will feel the Spirit! Just as it was during the opening Mass for the World Meeting of Families. Over a hundred priests, Bishops and Cardinals processing in, beautiful music, and 15,000 – 20,000 fellow Catholics from all over the world in attendance. We didn’t all speak the same language, but we spoke the same faith. We belonged to the same church. We were many parts, one Catholic Church. Amazing. And I know that was only a taste of what we will experience on Sunday.
This 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time will be anything but ordinary. But when I look at the program for the Mass of Families on Ben Franklin Parkway, underneath all the pomp and circumstance and the excitement, it is, an ordinary Mass. The same readings and liturgy and songs Catholics say and hear and sing across the world. It’s an ordinary Mass, in an extraordinary time and place.
My heart yearns for this, to see our Holy Father. Our country needs this. From Washington D.C., to New York, and now to Philadelphia. When I see him this weekend, and I feel the love of the people around us, I’m not sure how I will react. Will I laugh? will I cry? Will I jump for joy? Probably all of the above. We are all in need of his message, and his hope. And in a way that only the Holy Spirit could make happen, the readings for this 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time are perfect for this Mass, for Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia this weekend.
When you read the second reading today, from the Letter of St. James, it’s as if he is describing the United States today. For what used to be a beacon to the world as land of opportunity and promise, and was that country that led the industrial and technological revolutions, and led the fight against hate and evil in World War II, we are broken. Our “wealth has rotted away, our gold and silver have corroded”, and “it is devouring our flesh like a fire.”
We have let our greed store up our treasures for ourselves. We’re not using our wealth to help others – whether in this country or abroad. And as plentiful as this land of plenty is, we are poor. We are alone. And we have been corrupted. Our country is broken.
You look at the first reading and the Gospel today, and they are very similar. Some of Moses’ people are upset that others are prophesying back in the camp and trying to be like Moses. Some of Jesus’ disciples are upset that they saw another man trying to drive out demons in Jesus’ name.
Jesus and Moses both answer similarly – So what? “If they are not against us, they are for us!”
Pope Francis in coming here to the U.S. has made it known that the western world is greedy and selfish and un-giving towards those less fortunate, those on the margins of society. And this is not only affecting society, but it’s affecting the natural world – our environment. A once great nation is turning into an immoral, corrupt, selfish group of individuals. A country with so much wealth and promise that has contributed so much to this world in the past now is leading the world down the path of destruction – and we Americans don’t even realize it.
That’s why Pope Francis’ visit here is so important. He is here to inspire us, and to bring us together, as communities, as a country, and as Christians. It doesn’t matter if we are Catholic or not – people are searching for more. And we have this duty in the New Evangelization to re-evangelize those on the margins – cultural Catholics and cultural Christians, ex-Catholics and ex-Christians, and those who don’t believe.
People want to see a church that does not condemn, but rather a church that builds up. I heard a quote here at the World Meeting of Families that said, “If married couples simply lived out the Sacrament of Marriage, we would have a Christian society in 40 years.” A true society based on Christian morals, that lives out those morals, and is not all talk. Whether it’s Catholic or protestant Christian or whatever, a society that respects each other, and loves each other, and promotes the family. We as Catholics can be and have the duty to be the example, and when we do that, people will see. People will learn. People will be inspired.
And if they are not against us, they are for us.
This is what we must do. And it starts in our homes. With our spouses. With our children. With our brothers and sisters. With our communities.
With our families.
This is why the Pope has come to America. This is why he is in Philadelphia. To inspire a country with so much promise to again be the people that God intended us to be. And to inspire the world to do the same. To be for the family, because that is where everything begins, and if you’re not against the family, you are for the family.