The meeting in the Vatican today brought opposites together: Pope Francis and President Trump. They’re not opposite in all respects of course. They’re both men. They’re both elected leaders. They’re both over 70, much closer to death than birth. They both oversee large organizations with massive resources. They both are adored by many. They both consider women inferior to men. They both claim to believe in God and the divinity of Christ. Actually, when you think about it, they have a lot in common. Yet they are very different.
One sees the world as full of children of God. The other sees everyone as either a winner or loser.
One lifts up the path of community and service. The other embodies the values of individualism and greed.
One stops his car to kiss the head of a disabled young person. The other mocks a disabled person to garner votes and amuse his disciples.
One builds walls. The other builds bridges.
One washes the feet of others. The other grabs people by their privates.
This is the choice we face, Vera: which path to follow.
The fact of the matter is, the vast majority of us choose a path in the middle. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say the path chooses us.
We seek security in things and strive to have more than others, yet we cannot turn our back on the others.
We sense what is right and good, yet long for the comforts and security of riches.
We find appeal in the concept of the brotherhood and sisterhood of humankind, but are appalled by the banality of some of our fellow humans and would like nothing more than to distance ourselves from them.
We simply cannot commit ourselves to go all in on either path. Perhaps it’s out of fear we’re wrong. Or perhaps our heart or brain simply won’t allow it. Or, maybe, it’s just that we weren’t lucky enough to have born into the right family.
Some of us have tried to walk the path of life straddling the two paths, one foot in each. We can’t commit. We find fault with both. Risks in both.
We want and think we can have both. But we find we can’t. At least not fully. Something has to give.
A troubled discontent sometimes settles in. Often, self-delusion takes root. We find theological and philosophical justifications for our compromises. We become blind to the hypocrisy that envelops us.
Meetings such as the one that occurred at the Vatican today are helpful. They force us to confront important questions of life.
It’s tempting to trivialize them. Or to turn our attention to other matters. But I submit we should not avert our eyes and attention too quickly. We should linger in the moment for a while.