Two students, two separate occasions, both brought to tears with just a simple question: “How are you doing?” I really don’t seek out people’s problems… they just break in. It’s what happens when life overwhelms, especially for new students trying to figure out college life. A new place, new people, new anxieties and responsibilities—most of which are good. But when other parts of life start to come undone? The proverbial “stuff” hits the fan. It’s always a case of the human heart only being able to take so much. Sure, we can stuff it down with biblical platitudes, but eventually the levee breaks, and the tears come pouring out without much prodding.
This past week I heard the news about a murder-suicide in a small South Dakota town. I was just there three weeks ago, filling a pulpit, preaching the gospel, proclaiming God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. The next week an entire family was gone. In what world are children betrayed by those who are supposed to protect them? A family in South Dakota, a student waiting for a parent to die of cancer, pictures of refugees fleeing one hell only to end up in the middle of another one. I wonder, is there ever a time when preachers want to step up to the pulpit and say, “What can I say? There is no word from the Lord today. Things are too dark, to messed up, let’s just go home.”
Then, yesterday morning, I saw the picture above. Pope Francis, making his way through a parade, enduring all the pageantry, reaches out to embrace this little girl. Sophie Cruz is her name, she jumped the fence to give the Pope a message—her parents need help, her family needs help. She took a risk, and ended up giving the Pope a hug. I’m not Catholic, but if there ever was a time to believe in Papal infallibility it’s this moment. The bishop of Rome, the successor to Peter, scooping Sophia up into his arms and giving her a hug, taking upon himself all of her anxiety, all of her angst, and all of her concerns—a picture of God’s love for the world in Jesus Christ. Sometimes we need more than a word; sometimes we need to see God’s love playing out in the world, right in the middle of all of this darkness and despair. So this morning I thank God for Pope Francis, for little Sophie, and the small acts of love that tell us everything’s going to be ok.