I have always hated Jesus’ defeatist attitude when He repeats Deut 15:11–“there will always be the poor among you.” It seems to demotivate my desire to serve others and causes me to wonder why bother? I have found that most people are motivated to serve either out of a sense of guilt or code of responsibility.
Then I began to watch this new pope.
I’ve always said if I did not love money, my wife, and my protestant theology, I would become a Jesuit priest…and as the only order to take a vow of obedience to the Pope, under current management, I’d be inclined. He is showing Christ’s seemingly contradictory statement: I need the poor.
At a recent F3 event, I was asked, “Why should we care about the sad-clown?” It struck me that the answer resides in this relationship. I care about the Sadclowns because I see in them the truth of who I am: I am the worst of all Sadclowns.
To be a Jesuit priest, the first stage is you have to undergo stringent exams of self-awareness. To truly know who you are gives you the freedom to see others. We discover that “I care about those in need, because I am the one truly in need.”
Too often places of power (educated, wealthy, American) look with pity at those in need and give–often very generously–to help the poor. It assuages either a sense of guilt or honors a moral code of responsibility. But it perpetuates an Us-Them divide.
Instead what if I viewed the materially poor as the very thing I am in need of?
This is what the Pope demonstrates well. The reason he is having them install showers in the public restrooms in the Vatican is not (only) out of a sense that poor people need to be clean, but more importantly because he wants to dine with them. He isn’t motivated to serve them only for their sake, but because a party was not complete without the attendance of the materially poor. An embodiment of Jesus’s Great Banquet parable (Luke 14), indeed.
Pope Francis’ chief alms-giver has announced new plans to install free showers in the public restrooms in Vatican City as a service to the homeless. Monsignor Konrad Krajewski explained that the new facilities in St. Peter’s Square were inspired by an encounter with a homeless man. The homeless gentleman declined Krajewski’s invitation to a fancy dinner on his 50th birthday because he said that he smelled bad, and there was no place for homeless individuals like him to wash.
Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/slices/pope-francis-having-showers-homeless-installed-vatican#0iEiQzY1ZGRAzBz5.99
This is why I find this Pope so startling: He is not serving poor out of a sense of charity, but a knowledge that if he does not then he will be the one who is poor. This is true servanthood, when the seemingly greatest realizes they are the least.