Thursday, November 21, 2013

...from whom men hide their faces

Preaching the Gospel with his life. Image from
It happened again yesterday. Another man "with a disfigured face" was graciously met and embraced by the Holy Father. Honestly, I could not look at the photographs. It is just too painful even to see a degree of suffering that would deprive a person of his human features. The line from Isaiah's Suffering Servant canticles (Is 53:3) kept coming to mind: these are people "from whom men hide their faces." In biblical Greek, the words translated "person" and "face" are the same: prosopon. And Pope Francis is able to look (not stare, not look once then turn away) and see the person, even when the face itself has been taken over by wounds and scars and tumors.

There is something about all this that powerfully illustrates the ministry of Jesus; I see him, besieged by throngs in pain. But he doesn't see a sea of pain, or distorted limbs, or frenzied, depersonalized souls. He sees people, one by one; gives himself to them, one by one. Calls them each by name. Even the ones that the society of his time considered beyond the pale. Aren't people like Vinicio Riva precisely the ones whose lives would not be considered worth living? He himself experienced a lifetime of ridicule and rejection--which made the Pope's cordial and unforced welcome all the more impressive. Pope Francis is illustrating that every human person has an innate dignity that has nothing to do with health or status or condition. There have been some Catholics for whom Pope Francis is not "pro-life" enough. I think they may need to look again.

1 comment:

Sr. Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP said...

Thank you, Sr. Anne, for a thoughtful post--as usual. Thank you, too, for those last two sentences. The pope's spirit is not pitying, but pro-life. What is the spirit fueling my "pro-lifeness"--anger, shame, or love? We can certainly harness all our passions in the service of life, but they are not meant to be used in self-righteousness, or to violate anyone's dignity, not even of an enemy of life. Otherwise, we are not worthy of the martyrs.