NEW YORK (RNS) Pope Francis came to Madison Square Garden on Friday night, the site of historic heavyweight title matches, reverberating rock concerts, raucous political conventions and, every now and then, hockey and basketball championship glory.
And he spoke softly, to a hushed congregation.
He spoke about those who are lost amid the din of the great city, about “all those people who don’t appear to belong, or are second-class citizens,” about those abandoned “in deafening anonymity.”
And he exhorted the thousands who filled the great arena to go and let the light of Christ “shine on every corner of this city, on our fellow citizens, on every part of our lives.”
Despite the “hidden riches” of diversity in a metropolis like New York, Francis said, speaking in his native Spanish, “living in a big city is not always easy,”
“(B)ig cities,” he said in his homily, “also conceal the faces of all those people who don’t appear to belong, or are second-class citizens.”
“In big cities, beneath the roar of traffic, beneath ‘the rapid pace of change,’ so many faces pass by unnoticed because they have no ‘right’ to be there, no right to be part of the city,” the Argentine-born pope, the first Latin American pontiff in history, continued.
“They are the foreigners, the children who go without schooling, those deprived of medical insurance, the homeless, the forgotten elderly. These people stand at the edges of our great avenues, in our streets, in deafening anonymity. They become part of an urban landscape which is more and more taken for granted, in our eyes, and especially in our hearts.”
The hope of faith, on the other hand, is “a hope which liberates us from the forces pushing us to isolation and lack of concern for the lives of others, for the life of our city. A hope which frees us from empty ‘connections,’ from abstract analyses, or sensationalist routines. A hope which is unafraid of involvement, which acts as a leaven wherever we happen to live and work. A hope which makes us see, even in the midst of smog, the presence of God as he continues to walk the streets of our city.”
Again and again, Francis urged his listeners to do as Jesus instructed his followers 2,000 years ago: “to go out and meet others where they really are, not where we think they should be. Go out, again and again, go out without fear, without hesitation. Go out and proclaim this joy which is for all the people.”
by David Gibson