By Deborah Kemp, Guest Columnist
Listening to Pope Francis’s homily at the Canonization and Papal Mass on Wednesday, Sept. 23, was likely the most humbling and tangible expression of faith that I’ll ever experience. The opportunity for a mere glimpse of the Holy Father – in person – is, for a lifelong Catholic like me, an enriching and memorable occasion. A once-in-a-lifetime experience. Although his words and the faith he expressed during his homily at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception have a special meaning for me, they should resonate with us all, Catholic or not.
In spite of the challenges that we all encounter at some time or another, Pope Francis tells us to “Rejoice … and go forward,” remembering Jesus’ instructions to his disciples. Jesus told his disciples to embody the meaning of the Gospel and proclaim one’s faith through encouraging others to also embrace a moral approach.
Pope Francis has a universal appeal, and for that reason, his homily certainly wasn’t intended as a message for just Catholics. Each day, we’re reminded of the many personal and community struggles involving racism and discrimination, economic inequalities, abuse of power and politics, and hopelessness, just to name a few. These are struggles that virtually everyone encounters at some point – not just Catholics. In other words, regardless of your faith, religion or denomination, there’s a lot in this world to be apathetic about. But despite the apathy we might feel is difficult to shake, there also is much to be grateful and joyous about, says Pope Francis.
The best colloquialism that I can come up with for Pope Francis’s words during the Wednesday Mass is: “Fake it ‘til you make it,” or, believe in the idea of self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead of dwelling on how racism and discrimination affect us, focus on using the powerful mediums available to us for voicing our concerns, expressing our opinions and effecting change. Rather than flaunting wealth and focusing solely on materialism, use our wisdom and talents to demonstrate to others how they, too, can become successful. Exercise our rights by electing leaders who uphold our values, and not the ones who make empty promises or have too little substance. In other words, if we focus on the positives, the negatives fade into the background. The reality is that the negatives might never disappear, but they’ll eventually be overshadowed by the richness and sanctity of life, provided we don’t wallow in fear or apathy.
Pope Francis’s final words in yesterday’s homily aren’t just inspirational, but compelling: “Forward! Let’s keep moving forward!”