It was a typical day.The sun was just up rising above the mountain range that stand guard to our little barrio, Balian where there was a time during my childhood when everyone knows everybody.
All of a sudden, a man in a white robe and skull cap breezed into the sala from nowhere. Of course we knew he was coming. But to literally enter our home was a heavenly experience. Time stood still for a moment as we stood there staring at him in awe, as we share the same space and breathe the same air. We were Pope-strucked!
As I came back slowly to my senses, which seemed like ages, I inched toward him, bowed down, took his hand and kissed it in the traditional way that we, Filipinos, do the “Mano po” to pay our respect.
His hand seemed huge. And I said to myself, this is the big hand of a generous man who has likewise a big heart.
It was quick. The next moment, I saw him sneaking out through our back door. Then everything was vague after that. But every moment with him was vivid.
Then I woke up. It was the day before his arrival in Manila. And I was 7,367 km away here in Bahrain. And I was dreaming!
The following days, much has already been said and done of the papal visit. as I watched the entire Filipino nation welcome Pope Francis wherever he went; as TV cameras focused on each and every face that radiated the joy Pope Francis shared; as I saw my fellowmen wiping their tears at the mere sight of him as I tried so hard to hold back my own- I couldn’t help but remember the dream that I had and how the Pope made me feel. So I empathized. And I understood. I was overwhelmed. I have to write and share.
For five very special days, for Filipinos everywhere in the world, it felt like heaven was within reach.
Pope Francis rekindled our faith in God, in Jesus who he represents on earth, in the Spirit dwelling amongst us. Pope Francis awakened the innate generosity of our humanity as Filipinos that has long been put to sleep because of social injustice brought about by corruption and greed disguised as government. Pope Francis reaffirmed the sacredness of family and its importance in spreading the Word of God. He reminded us that in order to follow Christ, we should follow His example.
Be a beggar. Be a child. Think well. Feel well. Do well. Be quiet. Cry. Dream. Love. These were notable reminders from the Pope that we will cherish in our hearts and minds long after his departure.
But the real essence of our encounter with the Pope is Jesus. In our generation of materialism when our daily goal had become to make more money, he reminds us that there is something more important in life. That despite how the world has gotten ahead of itself in terms of technology, humankind in fact is getting poorer in terms of the quality of lives of the majority of its population.
It is therefore imperative for us to look back into that five days (six days for me) when Filipinos were elevated to holiness because we came face to face with who we really are and what we should always be. And we are a merciful and compassionate people filled with God’s love. Let not the absence of Pope Francis in our midst once again diminish us to self-centered, self-righteous and self-sufficient people that we are not. God created us in His image and likeness. Let us live up to it.
Let us continue to pray for Pope Francis with grateful hearts. Let us pray for each other as we live not for ourselves alone. We need one another. So let us tell the world of His love. Like Pope Francis joyfully does.