Pope Francis has come and gone and the millions of Filipino Catholics can’t get over it. Everyone had a story to tell or a picture or video posted in their social media of choice. I wasn’t fortunate to see him during his stay, but if the feeling is anything like when I saw Pope John Paul II when he was here for the World Youth Day, then it must have truly been something because I have never felt anyone beam so much holiness that it felt like something tangible. If you cannot understand what I am saying, then there is no describing it any better. You just had to be there.
The problem with Filipinos, of course, is that: first, we love celebrities and being majority Catholic, there’s no one better than the Pope himself; and, second, many of us are just Catholics in name. We give our religion as “Roman Catholic” but how many of us actually accept, truly imbibe, the teachings of the Church? I am considered a very conservative Catholic and yet even I question some of its teachings. Before I digress, the point here is that after all the hoopla, how much of what the Pope said have taken root?
The Pope asked us to care for our environment and yet he hasn’t even left the country yet, we’ve left a mountain of garbage in and around Luneta. If we failed to discipline ourselves by keeping our trash and/or dispose of them properly, then how are we going to respond to his call for us to care for our fellow men, the children, the poor, the needy, the victims? Will we cry as the Pope asks us to cry with them? How can we?
The message of the Pope is the message of Christ: one of love, and being loved. My years at the Ateneo de Manila taught me one thing more: love is not a feeling. It is not something fleeting: here one moment, gone in the next. It is an act. It is something you do.
My hope, therefore, is that even as the Pope may have departed, his teachings should have taken root in our hearts and compel us to act, to love and, in return, be loved. We cannot bask in all that euphoria and then just recall it with fondness. If we do that, then we have wasted the Pope’s time and energy. We have to act.
One of the most highlighted incidents during his stay is when a girl asked why God allows bad things to happen to children. With the young girl in tears, the Pope can only admit that there may be no answer to her question but, in truth, there is and it has always been the central message he brought to us: love. It is said that for evil to triumph, it is enough that good men do nothing. There you find the answer: God does not allow it, we do whenever we fail to act to help the needy. We have to act. If we do not allow it, then that is God not allowing it.
We may be “high” right now, but we soon have to confront the realities around us. There are people who need us, need our help, support, love. Let us go beyond the euphoria and act on it. Let us go out and love our neighbors, the needy, that we, in turn, will be loved. Let us be more than just nominal Catholics. As the Pope said, our central identity is rooted in God: we are children of God. Let us care for one another as one family in God not because we feel good doing it, but because that is what it takes to love.