Millennial writer Marcus Mescher writes:
Friday, March 13, marks the seventh anniversary of the Francis papacy. Over the last seven years, Pope Francis has introduced and popularized memorable phrases meant to inspire the church. His call to build a “revolution of tenderness” reminds us that mercy is who God is and what God wants for and from God’s people (“Evangelii Gaudium,” No. 88). Francis has called on all people of goodwill to create a “culture of encounter” (No. 220) that resists the modern “throwaway culture” (“Laudato Si’,” No. 22), affirms human dignity and promotes the global common good.
But for all his pithy lines, Francis’ papacy has been uniquely characterized by powerful gestures and actions that comprise a pedagogy of mercy. Reflecting Jesus’ teaching and healing ministry, Francis teaches through a number of richly symbolic pastoral actions. Here are five examples for our reflection, discernment and emulation.
Pope Francis’ chosen name indicates his commitment to humility and simplicity, as well as his special concern for the poor and the planet. Upon his election as pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio decided to take the name “Francis” following an embrace with his friend, the Brazilian Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, who insisted, “Don’t forget the poor.” During his introduction at St. Peter’s Square, Francis broke with tradition by asking the 150,000 people gathered to pray for him before offering his first blessing as pope….
When asked, “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” Francis replied: “I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.” Francis reveals someone in touch with God-who-is-mercy. Pictures often surface of Francis receiving the sacrament of reconciliation; his commitment to go to confession every two weeks reinforces his claim that “God never tires of forgiving us.”…
Pope Francis’ first visit outside of Rome was to the island of Lampedusa in July 2013, where he sought to bring attention to the plight of migrants and refugees that make the Mediterranean Sea a “vast cemetery.” His first international trip came just a couple weeks later, to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil for World Youth Day, where he spent some of his time talking and praying with residents of a favela (slum)….
In his words and actions, Pope Francis teaches us that love of God and neighbor should orbit around humility, inclusion, listening, forgiveness and being present, especially to those who question if they matter or belong. In the face of so many distractions and reasons for despair, Francis shows us that our physical presence matters. After all, we incarnate God’s love in the world as we are, where we are. As St. Ignatius insists—and Pope Francis displays—love is better shown in deeds than in words.