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Ricardo da Silva, S.J.October 18, 2023
Pope Francis arrives in the popemobile for his last appointment in Portugal: a meeting to thank World Youth Day volunteers at a concert venue in Algés, Portugal, Aug. 6, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

A Reflection for the Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist

World Youth Day in Lisbon this summer presented me with my first opportunity to meet Pope Francis. In the hope I might shake his hand or even exchange a brief word, a friend insisted I needed to get “pope ready.” This entailed “new everything,” she said, “a black suit, black shoes, black socks” and a “brand-new black clerical shirt,” she added emphatically. “Not one you’ve been wearing for years; that’s got to go.”

Days later, I boarded the plane for Lisbon, garment bag in tow, with everything except for that elusive new shirt. (It’s quite remarkable how challenging they can be to find, even here in New York, a city that’s supposed to have everything.)

Arriving at Eduardo VII Park, the site for the World Youth Day opening ceremony, I moved through the immense crowd, carefully following the designated route for press and VIPs to arrive at our assigned location, where we would have an unobstructed view of both the pope and the proceedings. But as I turned a corner, eager to cover the event for America and hear the pope speak in person for the first time, my path was blocked. A security barrier had been set up to clear the way for the pope to greet the crowds. There, standing just two or three people away from the edge of this barricade and dressed in comfortable shoes and working journalist attire, the pope glided past us in his popemobile—my first glimpse.

Luke recounts Jesus’ instructions in the Gospel we read today: “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way.” I couldn’t help but chuckle when I compared Jesus’ guidance with my envisioned attire for meeting the pope.

But there is a much deeper connection between today’s Gospel and the pope’s message on the day he arrived in Lisbon.

We too are called to proclaim Jesus’ message to “all, all all,” as Pope Francis did, that “the Kingdom of God is at hand for you.”

Jesus, Luke tells us, sent the disciples in pairs “to every town and place he intended to visit,” and told them that they should stay in “whatever town you enter.” There was no exclusion or reprimand. Luke makes that clear: “If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you.”

As Pope Francis addressed pilgrims that day, he went off script. “Todos, todos, todos,” he said. “That is the church … the mother of all; there is room for all.” I cannot put into words the immense emotion that surged through me and, it appeared, through the hundreds of thousands of people gathered there, as we heard the pope speak an unequivocal message of welcome, acceptance and love for all.

Jesus ordered his disciples to go into “every town and place” ahead of him—and by extension, to proclaim his truth to every person they encountered. We too are called to proclaim Jesus’ message to “all, all all,” as Pope Francis did, that “the Kingdom of God is at hand for you.”

I never got to meet Pope Francis as I had hoped or to wear the outfit that had been so carefully coordinated and curated for my planned meeting. But, clichéd as it may sound, I didn’t need to. In the words he spoke on that stage, and in the collective feeling of elation and affirmation of that space, I received in abundance what I had come for.

More: Scripture

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