Waiting For My Pontiff

At the morning mass on February 23, 2017, at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis said, ‘If you are a Christian who exploits people, lead a double life or manages ‘dirty’ business, it is better not to call yourself a believer. But to be Catholic like that, it is better to be an atheist. He further added, it is that, Scandal’.

Though he said this as a sermon to Catholic Christians, we can safely extend this to all religions. Pope’s sermon at Casa Santa Marta sends a strong message for the believers. It would have amounted to blasphemy, at least with few religions. It is hard to find leaders, especially religious leaders, to espouse the cause of ‘Dharma’. Pope’s call for ‘true Dharma’ if not astounding, is truly impressive.

Amidst the deafening hustle and bustle of daily living, the deafening noise from politics, blind insensitivity from crass materialism,  spiritual priorities take significantly lesser precedence and almost completely get lost with the pace of life and competing priorities. Worst, when religious tools fall in the hands of petulant politicians or power brokers, or business, by subterfuge it takes a completely malignant form and reduces religion to disdain.

Amongst those practicing with some semblance of regularity, it gets reduced to artifacts like offering prayer, lighting candles, and reciting sermons/verses from revered texts or groping for identity, insisting on how our religious practices are superior to others. We hardly realize how deeply we are immersed with ourselves. An important aspect of religion is finally rising beyond us, as individuals or community and looking beyond and acting, with a humane perspective.

Embedded Values Inbuilt in our Moral Fabric

While most believe, moral fabric is evolutionary, I feel it is embedded within our survival and existing and defines our resilience. Those values are so deeply embedded within our moral fabric, that we yearn and ultimately derive the true meaning with solitude and reconciliation. In this crowded world with fast pace of life, we hardly get space to reconcile with our inner self with those deeply embedded  values  and religious tenets espoused by our religion – Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism etc. All religions, irrespective of the practices, offer a foundation and guiding principle for mankind to deal with the complexities of our evolution vis a vis our struggle to comprehend the existing of our living.

No Need for Proselytization or Tribal Conversion

While working as a fellow in Molecular Oncology at UT Southwestern, as a family, developed a deep bond with one of the senior colleague. Our bond was enduring and the retired professor often insisted, we should convert to her religion. My answer was simple – ‘even if I adopt your parents, my parents won’t cease to be my parents’. Proselytization is common to almost all faith. Some under the guise of emancipation, others are help and the worst, forceful conversion under threat, fear or losing modesty/esteem or social position. It is an ultimate reflection of lacking faith and trust the strength of religion. To the bigots, it is an offering to their Almighty. Will that truly help?

The struggle is searching for the real value within us and practicing those in our day to day life, changing garments won’t help, and definitely not the artifacts of practice. Especially, in today’s world, it has become immensely relevant to find the true meaning of religion within our own practice. And when we evolve as true believer, that glow will shine through our virtues and day to day practice. Possibly, those trying to impose the existing of their own religion may find this as a better practice.

A significant departure from the past

Pope’s sermon at Casa Santa Marta sends a strong message from a revered leadership. It would have amounted to blasphemy, at least with few religions! I doubt any spiritual leaders from my religion or others from Muslims, Jains, Buddhist, Jews or Sikhs would dare to say that. It is hard to find leaders, especially religious leaders, to espouse the cause of ‘Dharma’*. The pope’s call for ‘true Dharma’ is astounding and impressive. This is a very rare, and an important message for all believers, irrespective of the religion we follow. I have a lot to learn from Pope Francis, while I am awaiting my own Pontiff! May be that awakening will happen within.

(*Dharma, here refers to the ethos of religion and not to Hinduism).

Cited:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2017/02/pope-francis-better-atheist-hypocritical-catholic/pope-francis

http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/23/world/pope-atheists-again/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/02/23/pope-francis-praises-the-torah-and-suggests-its-better-to-be-an-atheist-than-a-bad-catholic/

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/02/130328-pope-francis-vatican-casa-santa-marta-apartment-rome-catholic/