A Place at the Table: Day 28

Wednesday – This morning I made my lentil stir fry with a couple spoonfuls of the diced tomatoes stirred in, and it was a big improvement.  The tomatoes help balance the soy sauce, I think.  I really wanted an afternoon cup of coffee as the day wore on, and I’m proud of myself for holding out.  It became my after-dinner cup of coffee instead.

Of course, the buzz surrounding the white smoke bellowing from the Vatican chimney made holding out easier this afternoon than it would have been otherwise.  I had something exciting to focus on. And I must say, I am encouraged by Bergoglio’s selection.  I do not know any more about him than what has been said on the news today, but I am hopeful that he will be a strong and persistent voice for the world’s poor and marginalized.  His background and personal habits (such as choosing to live in an apartment rather than the archbishop’s palace in Argentina) suggest that he will be.  Taking the name of Francis is itself loaded with implications.  The new pontiff stikes me as a humble man of deep faith and prayer, and I am much more encouraged about the direction (and future) of Christianity’s largest body than I thought I would be when the new Pope was announced. There was something in his eyes as he addressed the crowd in St. Peter’s Square that seemed to sparkle with warmth, intelligence, and sincerity all at once.  I suppose it could have just been the emotional sparks flying from his realization that, “Holy cow! I’m the POPE!”  – but I think it was more than that.

The poor are in desperate need of a voice, perhaps now more than ever in recent history.  The world needs to be reminded of the poor’s existence as much as of their plight. As our nation’s wealth (and the wealth of the world) has become more concentrated in the hands of a select few, the halls of power have been redesigned with fewer doors and even fewer windows. The ones that do exist are shuttered and bolted fast from the inside.  Invitations to come in are rare and expensive. The poor don’t stand a chance of being admitted, and so they disappear into the shadows of anonymity. We catch glimpses of them every now and then, but most of us avert our gaze too quickly to catch much more than a glimpse.  And if they should try to speak, we move away even faster lest they shame us with things we’d prefer not to know or would just as soon forget.

I am attempting to be a voice through this blog.  Organizations such as Bread for the World, World Vision,  and Feed the Children attempt to be voices through their advocacy and humanitarian efforts.  Writers behind films like A Place at the Table and exposés like the Washington Post‘s recent special report on children and families are attempting to be voices through media old and new. But blogs can be dismissed (if they are even noticed).  Organizations can be ignored.  Films can be passed over and turned off.  Newspapers can be refolded and recycled.  The Pope cannot.  As the spiritual leader of one billion people and the head of a small but highly influential state, Francis just received an invitation to the halls of power.  A porter is now holding the door open wide for him.  He may reject limousine rides and posh ecclesial digs, but this is one privilege I hope Francis will enthusiastically accept. I pray that through his voice, the halls might be filled finally with millions of previously excluded voices, that its residents might be forced to hear what they refuse to see, and that his voice will rise until words from the poor and about the poor round every corner, fill every nook, and begin to form cracks in the very walls.  

May the words of all our mouths and the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer (Psalm 19.14).  Amen.

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