I was watching 60 Minutes on Sunday night. (Yes, I'm an old man.) There was a segment on an upcoming documentary about Pope Francis. 60 Minutes interviewed the unique choice for this project, German “art house” director Wim Wenders.
Wenders is a lapsed Catholic. He’s known for his eclectic body of work which includes U2 music videos and “Buena Vista Social Club,” a documentary about a group of aging Cuban musicians. I was interested in Wenders' perception of the Pope, for he would not be enamored like a devout Catholic. Nor did he seem to bear the stinging criticism of an anti-religious secularist. He made two observations of Pope Francis that struck me.
He is present. Wenders noticed that Pope Francis projected a quality that even the best actors can’t fake: presence – “a rare combination of charisma and authenticity.”
He is fearless. Wenders said, “I can say one thing: He’s the most fearless man I ever met. He is not influenced by polls.”
These two traits are significant precisely because they are so rare in 2018. While the Pope has me thinking about these characteristics, they really don't belong to Francis, but to Christ.
In our hurried society, efficiency is an ultimate value. How quick can we do our work? How soon can we get there? How do we scale the speed of production? In this milieu, the act of being fully present sticks out. It's like someone who’s standing still on a bustling sidewalk in Manhatten.
Presence means you are:
This is a picture of the Jesus the gospels describe. “As Jesus passed by, he saw a man blind from birth” (John 9:1). How much of Jesus’ ministry took place “as he passed by.” Unhurried, and often unplanned, he met need as it came. He slowed long enough to notice others, he was attentive to their station, and he met them where they were.
We live in a world overly concerned with appearance and status, trends and influence. We fear not being liked, accepted, or in control. Henri Nouwen once described the three lies of identity:
I am what I have.
I am what I do.
I am what other people say or think of me.
The ministry of Jesus was fearless. He had no concern for what the religious powers said of him. He had no fear as he entered hostile Jerusalem for the last time. His only concern was to do the will of his Father.
We are fearless when we are deaf to false affirmations. We are fearless when we are attuned only the voice of our Good Shepherd: “You are mine. I know you. I lay down my life for you.” We can be fearless because we are grounded in a relationship with the One who says, “Fear not.”
Present. Fearless. These are traits of our Master differentiate us in a frantic and fearful world. What would it look like for you to practice these traits?
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