Here are some of the 150 homeless men, women and children invited to the Sistine Chapel yesterday by Pope Francis. The Pope met privately with them, asked for their prayers and said, “This is your home.” Afterwards they were invited to a special dinner.
This beautiful photo is itself a meditation on many truths: First, we are reminded of St. Lawrence bringing the poor to a third-century Roman emperor and saying, “Here are the true treasures of the church.” Indeed, here they are: the greatest treasures of the church before the greatest artistic treasure. Second, it is a unique meditation on the communion of saints, above and below. The people in this photo, seated below, are part of the great communion of saints, who are included in Michelangelo’s masterpiece, which depicts not only those going to hell but the saved, those being invited into heaven. And what is the litmus test for entrance into heaven? As Jesus says in Matthew’s Gospel, it is how you treat the poor. Third, it is a meditation on humility. The Pope asked that no photos of himself be taken. Fourth, it is a meditation on how the church can treat the poor: the way that the father treats the prodigal son in Jesus’s parable in Luke’s Gospel: lavishly, prodigally, over the top. Why should we stint when it comes to helping the poor? Finally, it is a meditation on joy. Look at the faces of these these men and women when they are treated as human beings, and not simply as objects of charity or as bothersome problems in our cities and towns. The Joy of the Gospel, Evangelium Gaudium, is real, and it can be found here on earth.
(Photo from L’Osservatore Romano.)