Pope Francis is making us look bad!

Dang that Francis! I thought as I fastened my Welcome the Refugees! pin to my jacket.

Glancing at the news of his Washington motorcade,  I watched the gentle pope emerge from the cramped back seat of a blue Fiat. Yep. No Lincoln town car for him! Of course. I thought. Of course the Holy Father would quietly shun the sleek black limo offered to visiting celebrities.

Once again, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, spoke volumes about the gospel without uttering a word. And once again, myself and every minister of the cloth was challenged to walk the walk; “to love not with word or speech but with actions and truth” as John writes in his first epistle.

It’s so much easier to wear a pin!  

Um. Yes. Though, truth be told, I was really wearing that pin because it went well with my outfit that morning.

I thought of just some of the ways the Pope is showing me up – at least as far as I can acknowledge:

He goes places I don’t want to go. Who can forget that one of his first photo outings was to a local prison where he washed and kissed the feet of a Serbian Muslim woman? Here’s a picture to refresh your memory.


Francis is so unconcerned about decorum or appropriateness. He inhales the same air St. Paul did when Paul wrote, “Follow my example as I follow Christ!” This pope shows the world where Jesus would go. And along the way he makes sure that nothing gets in the way of Christ’s warm embrace.

He loves without hesitation.

Pope Francis holds a sick person in Saint Peter's Square at the end of his General Audience in Vatic

Yes. This. This picture should be in every one of our Bibles. This is what Jesus meant when he welcomed the outcasts in Mark 2, Luke 15 or Matthew 21. He meant this kind of warmth, this kind of acceptance, this kind of love.

He makes time for others.  As the official popemobile edged down the street toward the White House this morning, one young girl – eager to present her gift to the pope – escaped from the guardrails to run toward the car. She was quickly detained and escorted back to the crowd. That is, until Frances saw her and beaconed her to come closer. The crowd went crazy.

He eschews the trappings of MSP – money, status and power. Whew. These temptations are the trifecta of western life. Yet, consistently and without fanfare, Francis has opted out of the values I’m insidiously seeking. Whether he is declining to live in the opulent apartments of the Vatican, driving himself around in a Ford Escort, or celebrating mass with the kitchen staff, Francis shows how I am enslaved to this MSP trinity.

The writer Barbara Brown Taylor once wrote that we can feel pretty comfortable about our habits when we simply compare ourselves to others around us. But open a window and let Jesus in, and suddenly all bets are off the table. Jesus confronts our pettiness, our stinginess, and our self-centeredness — and generally speaking? Jesus doesn’t even need words.

So please dear Pope Francis, please continue making us look bad. Reveal to us how we have lost our way. And show us the way home.

Their last suppers


Julius Caesar ate mussels & shrimp before diving into his seared lamb and green beans. He finished with ambrosia salad.

Martin Luther King enjoyed a Southern standby: Fried Chicken with collards, cornbread and black-eyed peas.

The doomed passengers on the Titanic had only recently polished off their 3 hour, 11-course meal common in the Edwardian era of the day; while John F. Kennedy left this earth on a light breakfast consisting of soft-boiled eggs, toast and coffee.

Yes. As I should be preparing for tonight’s service where we remember Jesus’ last supper I’m absorbed in Andrew Caldwell’s off-beat book, “Legends of History and their Final Meals”. 

I do have holy thoughts. Really. But despite my best intentions I find myself straying as the pressure of saying something profound on Holy Holidays mounts (Yes, I doubled-down on that one).  Like tonight, thinking of Jesus last meal makes me wonder what I would eat for my last gathering with my friends and family.  Would I cook for them? I wonder.

If I knew this was it, would I want to express for them my deep appreciation by making my best meal? The pork tingas that fill the house as they cook for hours? Would I reach to the past and fix mother’s brisket recipe? Or, better yet, her buttermilk fried chicken?

Or maybe I wouldn’t cook at all. This is my last night. Let’s go out! Why would I want to spend my last hours in the kitchen peering at a stained cookbook? Perhaps we’d go to my favorite restaurant and talk late into the night.

Cleopatra organized her last supper carefully. After her lover Anthony died, she became the prisoner of Octavian who desired to march her through the streets of Egypt as his trophy wife. Cleopatra (in grief over her lover) played along with Octavian’s plan and orchestrated a lavish feast. She managed to smuggle a cobra in a great basket of figs. At the height of the party she committed suicide by snakebite.

On Jesus table that night, there was bread and wine, certainly. But likely figs, dates, olives and fish. That would have been a regular evening kind of supper. Although his mind wasn’t on the food his remark about the bread that night has become a defining piece of history.  Jesus’ focus – then and now – was on those gathered around him.


One last moment to teach them. A new commandment I give to you! One last word of affection for them. I no longer call you my servants, I call you my friends!  One last time of gathering with them, raising a glass and saying Shalom for all!