by Joseph Nangle, OFM
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
No doubt most of us have heard about the relatively new book of reflections entitled Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future, authored by Pope Francis and Austen Ivereigh. Perhaps many of us are wisely using it for our Lenten reading.
It seems worthwhile to comment on the book in the next few weeks of Lent, not with any thought of enhancing its content (it surely needs nothing like that from me), but simply pointing out what the Pope clearly aims to do through its pages. We shall look at the prologue, the three sections and epilogue of the book as we move toward Holy Week and Easter. I believe that in a certain way Pope Francis is urging a new Resurrection/Pentecost moment for humanity as we emerge ever so gradually from the darkness of this coronavirus era.
The prologue sets the framework for his following commentaries. As usual Francis surprises us with the scriptural references he uses. At the very beginning he recalls Jesus’s words to the Apostle Peter and the others at the Last Supper that the devil wants to “sift all of you like wheat”. The Pope applies these words to what humanity now faces in the experience of and emergence from the present crisis which has “sifted” us, shaken us up, turned our world upside down. The question the Pope continually asks is “how will we come out of it?”
The other somewhat unusual but totally appropriate Scripture Francis cites is one from the Prophet Isaiah (1:18): “Come. Let us talk this over,” and he adds, “Let us dare to dream.” Again, the Holy Father views with a strong sense of hope what might be. He asks us to dream along with him about a “new normal”, an historic opportunity to “renew the face of the earth”.
I’m sure that I will come back in these next few weeks to the transparent approach which the Pope takes in setting out what his dream consists of. Clearly it is pastoral in the very best sense of the word. He is not so much teaching or commanding but shepherding – pointing a way to his flock – showing the world how things could be if we “dream” together and act on what those dreams reveal. Reading and reflecting on this approach makes me think of Pope Francis as the pastor of the whole world and, I believe, to a great extent, the whole world sees him that way.
This approach comes directly out of what is the key to Pope Bergoglio, his roots in the Latin American Church. The renown theologian of that Church, Gustavo Gutierrez, father of liberation theology, maintains that the vocation of building the Reign of God on earth is essentially a pastoral vocation. That is, proclaiming to the community of believers across the world and to all women and men of good will that the utopia we imagine – what we dream about – comes directly from the message of Jesus, and that it is best expressed in Gospel terms as Francis continually demonstrates.
“I have come that you may have life and life in abundance.” (John 10:10)
A final comment on Let Us Dream. Francis sees this time in human history as a kairos moment, which is defined as “an opportune and decisive moment for the accomplishment of a crucial action”. Surely in some mysterious way this unnatural phenomenon, the pandemic, which has literally stopped the world as we have known it, while certainly not caused by some divine act of vengeance for sin – as some have mistakenly asserted – now calls us to “be re-created”, as our prayer to the Holy Spirit promises. Pope Francis places this God-given opportunity squarely in front of us throughout Let Us Dream. It is meant to suggest The Path to a Better Future.
Joe Nangle OFM is a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace. As a member of the Assisi Community in Washington, D.C., he is dedicated to simple living and social change. Joe also serves as the Pastoral Associate for the Latino community at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Arlington, Virginia.