Over the last few months, Pope Francis has made headlines multiple times for the things he’s said and done. Interviews, councils of cardinals, and parish surveys all demonstrate a commitment to a plan of reform. These are fascinating and exciting times.
But wait – as they say – there’s more! Beyond a program of institutional reform, Pope Francis has been demonstrating a way of living the Gospel. It’s a way of closeness and affection and vulnerability Let’s call it the “Gospel of Intimacy.” This pastor, who encouraged the shepherds to have the smell of their sheep, has embraced the People of God who came to him. It’s a gospel that can’t be captured with words, but the images speak volumes:
Vatican Insider has this beautiful slideshow the captures this Pope so dramatically.
Catholic News Service has an amazing collection of equally powerful images from throughout the Francis pontificate.
And – again! still more! – it is not only just the drama of struggle and a world in need. Francis also communicates the joy and life that comes from the Gospel – the “good news”, literally!
Buzzfeed captures the joy of the Pope’s recent audience with a young boy. Even if the papal security and monsignori tried to get things back on track, the Pope embraces the child and even places him on the throne; evident joy abounds.
The Deacon’s Bench highlights this picture from a recent general audience. Popes traditionally visit the newlyweds at these events. Here, the Pope gets in on the celebration.
Like the famed “Papal Selfie” these images show, concretely and dramatically, what it can mean to be a pastor in the 21st century. It is not solely about reform, about institutions, and about doctrinal definitions. It is about entering into a relationship. It is about helping people encounter the joy God invites them to and offers. It is about intimacy. Or, as Amy Davidson puts it in a blog post for the New Yorker magazine:
How strong a Pope is Francis? The picture of his kiss of the disfigured man was called beautiful, because, if one is to be honest, many people who couldn’t look away from it might not have been willing to look at all if the Pontiff were Photoshopped out, and the man were there alone. It is one thing, though, to admire a Pope for living the way most people couldn’t. It is another to have a Pope who looks at the way most people do live, and embraces them.
Just picture that.
Visita Papa Brasil courtesy Flickr user Semilla Luz