“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it” (Luke 8:21).
One of the challenges for the global church is that it must represent the interests of all its members, not just one region or nation. Pope Francis will bring this perspective to his visit to the United States and, in particular, to his address at the United Nations.
He arrives today in Washington, D.C., perhaps the most powerful city in the world, but he is coming by way of Cuba, a tiny nation with equal claims to human worth and influence. Before that, Pope Francis was in the Middle East, the Philippines, Korea and Latin America, and in November he will visit Africa. As a holy "father," his concerns encompass the whole global family.
In today's Gospel, Jesus is told that his own family is trying to reach him through the crowds. Does not blood and tribe and village have a claim on his attention? He sends back word that there is now a new basis for family affiliation. "Who are my brothers and sisters? My mother? Those who hear the word of God and keep it."
For those who want to hear special praise from the pope or support for their particular agenda, his message will focus on this new family, the needs of all, especially the billions of people who have fallen outside the borders of affluence and privilege protected by U.S. political and economic interests. The pope will speak about immigrants and refugees, income disparity, the care of the earth, our common home, about dialogue and respect in our religious and cultural diversity.
And above all, the pope will call for action. It is not those who hear the truth, or talk about it, or issue papers and hold conferences, but those who act. His words will put the developed nations on notice that climate change demands action, economic injustice must stop if we want peace, enemies must talk instead of threaten one another. The whole human family must be at the table where the future is being decided, or there will be no future.
Who are my mother, brothers and sisters? Those who act on behalf of the common good of the entire family, the global community, the one planet we all call home.