There’s a lot of excitement about having Pope Francis come to the United States this week. I’m feeling a little bit of dread, though.
Pope Francis, it’s not you; it’s us.
Americans will roll out the red carpet and show him the best our country has to offer. We should be prepared to hear some things we don’t want to hear, though.
It reminds me of when my parents visited the house my friends and I rented in college once. I was excited to have them there, but I dreaded what was coming. I braced myself for admonishment over the filth in that prototypical college bachelor pad.
I am a practicing Catholic. Pope Francis is the leader of my church. So why would I dread him coming to our country? Frankly, we’re just not living up to God’s expectations.
We should brace ourselves to hear that. We should open ourselves to hear it. Truthfully, we should welcome it.
People are so excited over this visit in part because of the magnetic personality of this pope. It’s hard not to look at him and feel like God must be working through him.
His candor and warmth pull us toward him. He has a humility most don’t associate with leading the world’s Catholics, from staying in a small apartment to paying his own hotel bill after being elected.
He is a man of the people, a humble pastor to a flock. But don’t let that blind you to what he’s saying this week during his trips to Washington, New York City and Philadelphia.
He won’t slap President Barack Obama on the back Wednesday to tell him what the world can learn from this country.
He isn’t going to stand before Congress on Thursday morning and praise how partisan politics are doing God’s will.
Even during his part of the Festival of Families in Philadelphia on Saturday and Sunday, he’ll say some things that we as Americans will fine hard to hear about the state of the family.
We don’t like hearing that we’re not doing enough to respect life. We don’t like critiques about how our actions are destroying the planet.
Most of all, Americans reject his emphasis on the poor and downtrodden. Our way is to celebrate American exceptionalism. We love a story about someone pulling himself up by his own bootstraps, but we don’t like to dwell on the circumstances that made their upbringing so difficult. We love a happy ending, but we’re not so wild about the unhappy beginning.
In a country intrigued by billionaire Donald Trump’s run for the presidency and so-called reality television full of vices, his message might rattle us a bit. It’s so foreign. It’s so against our culture. It’s so unpopular.
He’s not trying to be popular, though, which might be what makes him so baffling and engaging.
Pope Francis is trying to do the work of God. It’s time for each of us to listen closely and ponder how we’re doing at that same mission.