Yup, I also want to see the Pope, but…
I remember that one moment, while killing time at a YFC conference in CDO (Philippines), when I misjudged a phenomenon that is generally called a fun game. It involves tying a small balloon to your ankle and running in single file with 4 other people, inside a designated square (about 6 x 7 m); with the objective of popping all of the balloons of the other team while keeping yours from their attack. Succumbing to boredom and haphazard judgment, we watched the first few batches play while I muttered: “How’s that fun?”
A few moments later, I found myself tying a green balloon to my ankle and laughing so hard after a round or two. Boy, it was really fun! The same joy harks back to me whenever I see photos that were taken that afternoon.
I don’t know if this is a rumination greatly influenced by my current read, but there’s a genuine yearning from within me to look at the Pope’s visit to be something more than a hype, which is what it is turning out to be. I want it to last more than a few days, and mean beyond an aspirational selfie with him.
The question I have in my heart is this: “How will the Pope’s visit impact my life in such a way that I might become an alter Christus, a person of mercy and compassion, a being less unworthy of heaven?”
This is not going to be answered by posting a photo of him indicating my approximate distance to the pope mobile. Answering the question would require both contemplation and corresponding action. The reason why atheists and others who do not identify themselves with the Church just don’t care as much about the events that will be unfolding this weekend. One of the answers could be the lack of witnessing of Christians themselves. And this is the distillation of the country’s major problems. Such problems make it hard for most of us to be truly human. You have only to take the MRT more than once a week for concepts like unbridled capitalism and dehumanizing economic systems (including depersonalizing bosses and salaries) as subjects for reflection, which extends throughout the duration of your train ride from Ortigas to Quezon Ave. station.
Trying to manage expectations, I accepted the probability that I may not see the Pope. In Viktor Frankl fashion, I confined myself to the idea that there must be more to seeing the Pope, but I render this a premature judgment, subject to verification. Maybe I’m just trying to preemptively mitigate future pain of not being able to see him.
In all honesty, I want to see the Pope, but only for him to help me see Jesus more — in his humility, in my confusion, in our country’s hunger to be more than the sum of our parts, in the millions of persons who will be going to Quirino Grandstand on Sunday, in those who will be watching from their TVs at home, and even in those who do could not identify with the tweets and posts online.
I want to see the Pope, but not to the extent that I forget about the reason for his his coming here: to be among the poor and the lost, the displaced and deprived. He came here to witness to Jesus — not just the God but the person. Not just the one written in the bible but the one that holds your hand when you pray, and even when you’re so tired after a long day that all you can manage is a sign of the cross or a soft whisper of thanksgiving.
And if I don’t catch even a glimpse of him, it is consoling to know that the Vicar of Christ will be standing against the background of a familiar sky and walking amid a sea of faces much like my own. Maybe seeing him would be totally different—like visceral-different, out-of-body-experience-different—but that would be for when thathappens. Going to Quirino on Sunday should be like a retreat, a long walk going up the mount to hear the Lord speak to me, in a way that only He could. And it would be extra awesome to have the Holy Father shepherd us all into a deeper encounter with Jesus through the Eucharist. That, I think, would be the highlight of all the preparation and what’s buried deep beneath the hype.
And, what happens (even long, long) after the final blessing. I am also looking forward to be part of that.