Q. What do you consider the most important target on which all of us movements, associations and communities must set our sights if we are to be able to carry out the task to which we are called? How can we communicate faith effectively today?”
A. I shall answer with just three words. The first: Jesus. What is the most important thing? Jesus. If we forge ahead with our own arrangements, with other things, with beautiful things but without Jesus we make no headway, it does not work. Jesus is more important. I would like now to make a small complaint, but in a brotherly way, just between ourselves. All of you in the square shouted “Francis, Francis, Pope Francis”; but where was Jesus? I should have preferred to hear you cry: “Jesus, Jesus is Lord, and he is in our midst!” From now on enough of “Francis”, just “Jesus”!
The second word is: prayer. Looking at the face of God, but above all — and this has to do with what I said earlier — realizing that he is also looking at us. The Lord looks at us. He looks at us first. My experience is what I feel in front of the tabernacle, when I go in the evening to pray before the Lord. Sometimes I nod off for a while; this is true, for the strain of the day more or less makes you fall asleep, but he understands. I feel great comfort when I think of the Lord looking at me. We think we have to pray and talk, talk, talk.... No! Let the Lord look at you. When he looks at us, he gives us strength and helps us to bear witness to him — for the question was about witnessing to faith, wasn’t it?
Pope Francis, Pentecost Vigil with Ecclesial Movements, May 18, 2013
Reflection – Well, again this is all so beautiful, what do I need to add to it? I do like his little touch of asking the crowds not to shout his name, but Jesus’ name. This has been a fairly recent development in the Church—the ‘Pope as rock star’ phenomenon—really starting with Bl. John Paul II and the youth events. Both he and Benedict recognized this kind of thing as an expression of filial love and loyalty to the Church, but Pope Francis is perhaps highlighting that it is not quite in order.
The center of our faith is not Francis, Benedict, or John Paul, It is Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. There is an intense christocentrism that we are all called to, without which the most creative and enthusiastic apostolic efforts fall flat, lie fallow, fail. And this christocentrism is expressed in prayer, consistent, unglamorous, steady prayer. Falling asleep at our devotions. Being bored and restless and surreptitiously checking our watch. Having nothing to say to God. Bringing him the usual laundry list of intentions that never change much from year to year. Reading scripture and getting nowhere with meditating on it. All that good stuff.
We think of prayer as pouring out our hearts and minds in a constant flow of ecstatic love with God, or of being swept up in mystical abandon to the heights of heaven, or of some great tangible experience of love and presence. Well, all that happens, once in a while. Once every twenty years or so, maybe (okay, I exaggerate – once every ten years).
But the deeper reality of prayer is our choice to waste time with Jesus. To regularly, routinely, habitually plunk ourselves down before him, either before the tabernacle, or in some other venue, and be with him, no matter what. To be there, whether or not he is entertaining us or seems to be answering our prayers, or whether or not we ‘feel’ very prayerful at this moment. Just be there, with Jesus, for better or for worse, richer or poorer, in sickness or in health, till do we (not) part.
This is the true and deep christocentrism without which our lives ultimately fail. As long as our focus is on results or emotions or on getting our ‘needs’ met or having the world arrange itself according to our specifications or having our plans and projects succeed, then our focus is not on the Lord Jesus, but on what we hope to get from him.
Our faith is not about, ‘John Paul, Benedict, Francis.’ It is also not about ‘me, me, me.’ It is about Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. And only that kind of faith, and that kind of intense focus, will make our lives evangelical and apostolic—truly good news, truly sent by the Father to bring the Gospel of grace and mercy to the world.