“I Have Something Important To Tell You!”
Respect for the sacredness of human life
Pope Francis is coming to tell us in Japan to protect all life. This reminds us of his tenacious calling for the care of the common home. I want to begin quoting Pope Francis’ address in United Nations on September 25, 2015. “The common home of all men and women continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life.”
Mercy is the key to the sacredness of created nature
We remember that the quintessential line of action of his papacy is mercy. But it is not just how we feel towards others, but rather it is how we act to others. Pope Francis said, “Mercy always has a youthful face! Because a merciful heart is motivated to move beyond its comfort zone. A merciful heart can go out and meet others; it is ready to embrace everyone. […] To say the word “mercy” along with you is to speak of opportunity, future, commitment, trust openness, hospitality, compassion, and dreams.” (The XXXI World Youth Day, July 28, 2016, Krakow, Poland) Mercy is dynamic and transformative. It invites us to go beyond ourselves to reach others, especially to those who are marginalized.
Heartfelt smiles can be a sign of respect. Sparing time for listening to other’s stories, you accompany his life-journey. Holding grudges against others, you can have an excellent opportunity to pray for them instead of slanders. These are very Christian ways of merciful and concrete proceeding. Mercy and respect are indeed intertwined in the Christian humanism. Then you are learning to be more generous, courageous, gentle, and just. Thus it is to be pursued and flourished in the nitty-gritty of our everyday life. That’s why Pope Francis tells us gossiping destroys our souls. It “sows discord, sows enmity, sows evil,” he warned. As we learn to respect others, we learn to create harmony, build friendship, and find goodness in others. Of course, it is challenging!
Pope Francis is coming here to encourage and animate us to be more merciful! Mercy begins at home and leads you to put yourself in other’s shoes! He said, “Mercy, both in Jesus and in us, is a journey that starts from the heart to get to the hands.” (General Audience, Aug. 10, 2016) Pope Francis invites us to be present in our daily realities, where we get our hands dirty for others. It sounds simple, yet it is difficult to carry out. Let us make them happen in our daily lives!
The common home for created nature
The common home is the place where our belongingness is duly acknowledged, and no one of us should be excluded there. Here we can remember the famous phrase of St. Augustine; “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” The world is restless. It is because we have not yet fully acknowledged that God made us for Himself. This is the foundation of our sacredness. One of the remarkable characteristics of Pope Francis is that he never excludes anybody because we humans share the same source of life as children of God. To protect all life is to thank God, the genuine source of our life. And it is to nurture our fraternity in today’s Japan, where many issues polarize our society, demonize outsiders, and paralyze our ethos.
It is important to remember that we are challenged to build the culture of the sacredness of created nature by Pope Francis. It is not an egocentric and human-centric culture, but it entails deep respect and cares for the common home. Japan is very vulnerable to the fierce power of nature; earthquake, tsunami, flood, and typhoon, etc. The understanding of vulnerability can call for the humility of our being created nature. Otherwise, the arrogance can blind us to the mystery of the grace of creation. Then we leave out a deep sense of the sacredness of humanity (a.k.a. mystery). We should remember that we humans are stewards, entrusted by God: we are not owners. Human beings are responsible for this world (nature, society, a shared house), taking care, nurturing the relations, and participating in the works of God’s creation. “Christians in their turn “realize that their responsibility within creation, and their duty towards nature and the Creator, are an essential part of their faith.” (Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si’ 64) We shall listen to the Pope’s words and encouragement. At the same time, we voice our priorities for the shared home together in fraternity and take up our duty in our realities!
(Fr. John Yosuke Sakai, SJ)