Headline: POPE FRANCISí THIRD CLASS HONOURS


Posted on: 2014-10-20


Before you were formed in the womb

Anonymous!  It is not at all unusual to hear that word used for people who do not want their names mentioned in connection to something. I often oppose that classification for people who do some good or who request prayers in Church but would rather not be mentioned. I argue that there are no “anonymous people”. In the community of God’s people especially, it would be more realistic to speak of “someone or people known to God”, for indeed so they are. God knows everybody. They may not be known to other people but no one is anonymous to his Creator. Hear the Prophet Jeremiah: “A word of Yahweh came to me, ‘Even before I formed you in the womb I have known you; even before you were born I had set you apart, and appointed you a prophet to the nations’” (Jer. 1;4-5). The psalms too speak thus of God: “It was you who formed my inmost part and knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps. 139:13). So there it is, undisputed, with God there are no anonymous people.

The clamour for a better world.

Every day the clamour for a better world gets louder and more ubiquitous. Rightly so! It is clear that God’s plans for man is that he make a better world for God said to Adam and Eve: “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it, rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky, over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Gen. 1:28). That was an order to man to make the earth a better place than he finds it. Jesus Christ manifested the purpose of his coming when he took the scroll in the synagogue, adopted the words of the prophet Isaiah and declared: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and new sight to the blind, to free the oppressed and announce the Lord’s year of mercy” (Lk. 4: 18-19). It was a clear commitment that he had come to make the world a better place for all. Jesus then gave a charge to his followers in affirmative words: “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world. A city built on a mountain cannot be hidden… In the same way your light must shine before others, so that they may see the good you do and praise your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5: 13-16. Jesus therefore came to call Christians to follow him as witnesses not “secret service agents”. The obstacle to changing our world for better lies largely with believers who fail to be witnesses but prefer to hide away or stay silent when they encounter evil.  “For evil to triumph, good people need only be silent”.

The Pope would gladly take Third Class

But silence was not the attitude of a young hero who emerged in our world recently when she saw evil. It is very rare that a pope gets beaten in anything, least of all one like Pope Francis, a man of many firsts.  Here, this time however was the news, bold and clear. Pope Francis, who had been listed among candidates for the 2014 Nobel Prize for peace had been “beaten”. In fact he was beaten, not just to second place, but to third by two awesome individuals.  One was Mahlala Yousafzai a Muslim from Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi, a Hindi from India. Both individuals shared the prize, according to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”. The two had struggled in favour of education and against extremism. More remarkable of the two is Malala, who at 17 is the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Prize. She had been shot in the head by the Taliban in a murder attempt in 2012 for insisting publicly that girls as well as boys have a right to education. After several operations in Birmingham, Britain, she continued her studies and engaged in more vigorous activism. After her ordeal, on her sixteenth birthday, Malala addressed the United Nations. She had simply risked her life to oppose evil and be light in her world’s darkness. In her acceptance speech she said: “In Pakistan, I had two options, one was not to speak and wait to be killed and the second was to speak up and then be killed, I chose the second”. Lined up with such courageous inspiration in youth for a better world, Pope Francis, doubtlessly, would not mind accepting Third Class.

Youth can craft a better world

Yes, Pope Francis, in his inimitable way would gladly echo Papal messages to galvanize young people to fight for a better world and would point out Malala as a model to emulate. At the 17th World Youth Day of 2002, Saint John Paul II said to the youth of the world: “Dear young people, do not be content with anything less than the highest ideals! Do not let yourselves be dispirited by those who are disillusioned with life and have grown deaf to the deepest and most authentic desires of their heart. You are right to be disappointed with hollow entertainment and passing fads, and with aiming at too little in life. If you have an ardent desire for the Lord you will steer clear of the mediocrity and conformism so widespread in our society”. Well,  if youth would only follow that golden injunction then the Pope, I am sure, would thankfully  accept Third Class Honours and indeed do so many times over (Lk. 10:21).


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