The confluence of Easter and Passover at mid-month will find many people, stressed more than usual by the state of world affairs and the chaos of domestic politics, seeking answers from their faith.
It's hard to imagine anyone on the world stage more gifted at articulating a course for humanity than Pope Francis. Beyond his responsibilities as leader of the Catholic Church, the pope, at age 80, has become a beacon of common sense, most emphatically in his devotion to the economically disenfranchised.
"The world tells us to seek success, power and money," he observes. "God tells us to seek humility, service and love."
His words are powerful, even for those like myself who are not Catholic.
During the four years of his papacy he has boldly directed many of his remarks at governments and world leaders in addressing the needs of a troubled planet.
Here are my favorite statements by Pope Francis:
- "The measure of the greatness of a society is found in the way it treats those most in need, those who have nothing apart from their poverty."
- "Responsibility for the poor and the marginalized must be an essential element of any political decision, whether on the national or the international level."
- "Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy. It is a moral obligation."
- "Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society."
A few weeks ago, the pope spoke about encountering beggars on the street. "There are many excuses" to justify not giving them money, he noted. Perhaps it will be spent on alcohol or drugs.
But giving something to someone in need "is always right," he explained. And looking them in the eyes and touching their hands must be the way one reaches out to a person asking for help.
Study people's faces as you go along the street, the pope has advised. Too many are worried, closed in, a smile is missing, tenderness is missing. In an era of social media, true social friendship is missing.
And here is my favorite quote from Pope Francis. Perhaps you, too, will consider it as food for thought at your holiday table.
- "You pray for the hungry. Then you feed them. That's how prayer works."
(Peter Funt is the author of "Cautiously Optimistic" and a nationally syndicated newspaper column. He can be reached at www.CandidCamera.com )