For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing – 2 Cor 2:15, NASB
Pope Francis ain’t perfect, and we shouldn’t idealize him. But a few months into his pontificate, I find myself thinking about him frequently, reading the headlines from Vatican News, considering my own life of consumerism and indifference to human suffering, and wondering how I can change. And, I think, from Elton John to the Italian fashion industry, many other people are thinking the same things. What about this old man who still uses a typewriter and looks entirely forgettable has the world thinking? What attracts us to Pope Francis, to the Mother Teresas of the world?
Here’s what I think. So much of my religious experience as an evangelical Protestant, and even now as a Catholic, has seemed so, well, typical. Worldly. Something you would expect from a self-centered culture. Preachers getting thousands of people to hang on their every word on iTunes doesn’t seem much different from what every aspiring writer, speaker, actor, musician wants. A Christian leader can give glory to God, but no one can deny it feels good to have thousands sing your praise.
But what if someone takes that praise and admiration, and turns it to those who never receive anything but disgust? The sick, the hungry, the deadbeats, the drunks, the imprisoned, the sinners? What if they really don’t seem to care what people think about them, that it’s not just a clever marketing scheme? What if they remind you of Jesus?
That person catches the eye, emits a pleasing fragrance in a world full of foul oders. And we are left questioning, pondering, uncomfortable. We are left discovering the power of love, of the gospel of the kingdom anew. I want to change, I want to be like that. Lord, hear our prayer.