In Time Magazine’s Pope Francis, the Choice, Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs comments that Pope Francis “has not changed the words, but he’s changed the music,” that the substance and the symbols are the same, but something about his style reinforces that they cannot be seen as “empty gestures.” Gibbs backs this up by noting that in his first official exhortation, the Pope attacked “the idolatry of money,” that he lives in simple surroundings, prays all the time, even while waiting for the dentist, that he drives a “scuffed-up Ford Focus” and even offered to baptize the baby of a divorced woman whose married lover wanted her to abort it. (Read story.)
Our Pope's new "music" has been played before. Consider Bishop Myriel of Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, Les Miserables. When the police bring him a thief who stole his silver tableware, the bishop corroborates the thief’s story that the items were a gift and, not only lets Jean Valjean keep the stolen bounty, he adds candlesticks that he claims the thief “left behind”, whispering in his ear that, by gifting them, he has bought the man’s life for God and telling him to change and live this new life. This Les Miserables’ bishop doesn’t see the man as a thief but sees him as Pope Francis would see him and wants us to see every man, woman and child: through the loving eyes of God that sees the good that is there, even in the presence of flaws and failings.
So, Pope Francis, as emphasized by Time’s selecting him Person of the Year, is placing before our eyes an example and calling to us, saying, by his life: Step up to the plate. Your life was bought for God.
Another interesting point: Colm Wilkinson, the Jean Valjean of the 1987 Les Miserables Broadway production, is Bishop Myriel in the 2012 movie version. Coincidence or providence - indicating that a person can change from a wounded, hate-filled thief to a generous instrument of God?
Come, let us join Pope Francis in playing this new music in our everyday lives.