The Genesis story in our First Reading today sums up the human situation then and now; our human existence is broken, relationships are destroyed by blame and mistrust. We all yearn for the Garden of Eden - how it was before sin was introduced into the world. And we all have a sense of how life should be, how we desire it to be. But we are always confronted with the harsh realities of how it really is.
The focal point of the story, I think, is when God enters the scene, looking for us and asks a very important question: “Where are you?” However, this is also a question that implies: “Who are you?” “Where did you go?” and “Where are you going?”
Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to view the new film, “Pope Francis, A Man of His Word” (which I highly recommend). The pope’s ideas and his message are central to this documentary, which sets out to present his work of reform and his answers to today’s global questions from death, social justice, immigration, ecology, wealth inequality, materialism, and the role of the family.
Throughout the film, Pope Francis intimately shares his vision of Church and his deep concern for the poor, his involvement in environmental issues and social justice, and his call for peace in areas of conflict and between world religions. We can also see the presence of Francis of Assisi, connecting back to the pope’s namesake, through accounts of legendary moments in the Saint’s own life as a reformer and ecologist. And the film chronicles one man’s answer to the question: “Where are you?” and his desire to remind us that we are all brothers and sisters, and that we are all family.
Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when, in the Gospel, he avoids focusing on blood lines but rather points to the crowd says: “Here are my mother and my brothers…”
But how do we realistically talk about God in a society that has lost its sense of the sacred, and considers the religious view in which we have shaped our images and language about God to be nonsense? How do we spread word about the God of Life to a society bent on creating instruments of death and total destruction? How do we preach a God of Reconciliation to a world wrapped in hatred, prejudice and war? How can we even dream of proclaiming God’s unconditional love to families and persons whose lives are steeped in suffering, loneliness and despair? How do we repair the damage already done by members of our own community and restore confidence and trust?
Pope Francis’ message is a simple one – always based on the Gospel. We are one family sent by Jesus to create a special environment - an environment of understanding, of care and compassion. We are to create the possibility of others becoming present to themselves; and we are to become a center of communion, a community where we cease to be anonymous, where we recognize one another as sisters and brothers, loving one another and caring for one another - not because we need them, but simply for themselves.
We have been chosen by name and called to create an environment in which healing takes place, where one is forgiven and reconciled, where care for one another is fostered, where one feels a sense of belonging.
This is who we are – and this is our answer to the question: “Where are you?”