(Only a brief text summary of this sermon. The audio file above is complete.)
I was shocked by how much opposition and outright hatred has been directed against Pope Francis before and during his visit to the U.S. – hateful attacks from both the Left and the Right, because he does not fully line up with their agendas. The only people who embrace him are the ordinary people. Thank God the ordinary people are the majority!! Are you ordinary?
In today’s Gospel reading we see Jesus calling ordinary people, a few fishermen, to be his messengers to the world. These “fishers of men” were given no agenda other than love. Fishers of men – the fishermen who became extraordinary and yet remained ordinary to the end of their lives on earth. Ordinary people are the only people who can do God’s work. For 2,000 years the Church has looked to extraordinary people – emperors, monks, patriarchs, popes, theologians. It’s time for ordinary people to go fishing! This Pope is extraordinary by being so ordinary. This is the way God prefers.
In his speech to Congress, Francis singled out four past citizens of this land: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton….
Three men and one woman, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, equality and inclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.
Four representatives of the American people. Are they your representatives? They certainly are mine. I was very happy that Pope Francis singled out these four individuals. The first two everyone has heard of; Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, not too many know of them. I love the way he finished his speech to Congress:
In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair. Their problems are our problems. We cannot avoid them. We need to face them together, to talk about them and to seek effective solutions rather than getting bogged down in discussions. At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.
A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.
In these remarks I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.