Homilies can be long, boring, motivational or explanatory, but when I leave church to go about the upcoming week, do I have any homework? On July 6, Pope Francis spoke to about two hundred pilgrims from the diocese of Lyons, France. This pilgrimage ,which is part of the celebration of the Year of Mercy, was different from many other diocesan pilgrimages from around the world. All these participants were poor, down on their luck or feeling ignored by society. Pope Francis asked them to go on a mission on his behalf. Pray, he said, for those people that you believe are the perpetrators of your poverty, pray for those wealthy people who you believe, ignore you on a day to day basis. Pray that they will have a conversion of heart. When I read these comments I thought it sounded like inmates at Rikers Island being asked to pray for Jack McCoy from Law and Order. How many inmates pray for the prosecutor who put them in prison to begin with? After all, of these two hundred or so pilgrims, each one brought their story of ordinary suffering. Some had no work or social care, others had lost their home while others had few personal effects. There were orphans who had been pushed from home to home, a few who never knew their parents, a marginalized group that had lived on the streets, others who never have a chance to buy so much as a pair of shoes. And the message of the Holy Father is these downtrodden souls should pray for the conversion of hearts of the folks who drive by them on a daily basis with hardly a glance? No wonder the Gospel is not for weaklings!
God Bless, Fr. John