Pope Francis’s nearly two years as the leader of the Catholic Church has transformed the two millennia old institution. And among world leaders, Jorge Mario Bergoglio stands out for his ability to connect with people of all stripes. And incredibly, his encore year of 2014 might have outdone his spectacular 2013 debut.
But as Francis looks forward to his year third calendar year as Bishop of Rome, this 78-year-old Jesuit from Argentina isn’t done yet. He has a busy year with trips to the Philippines, Sri Lanka, France, and the United States. And in October, he will convene the second of two Synods on the Family—where among other things, the bishops will re-examine the Church’s pastoral approach towards the LGBT community.
I think Francis has three New Year’s resolutions for us:
1. Have a big heart open to God and open to others.
For a man who says so much, Pope Francis values the art of silence and discernment. He begins his day at 4:45 AM with at least an hour of silent prayer. Silence gives birth to a relationship with God and allows us to take the time to notice God in every person’s life.
Francis says it well:
2. Find joy and share it with others.
Too many people’s lives, Pope Francis says, “are like Lent without Easter….Sometimes we are tempted to find excuses and complain, acting as if we could only be happy if a thousand conditions were met.” But the truth is: the seeds of joy are all around us. Simple joy can come from knowing that God never tires of loving us and accompanying us along the way of life. It comes from knowing—despite it all—we have a life and a future in 2015.
When we experience this joy of being loved and of having a future, we can’t help but share it. Joy is a gift that must be shared. And when we share joy, we attract other people—all kinds of people. This—in fact—is the greatest gift of sharing joy: we become people who are willing to engage, encounter, and befriend anyone.
3. Become poor for the poor.
Pope Francis says we must encounter “everyone without exception….But to whom should she go first? When we read the Gospel we find a clear indication: not so much our friends and wealthy neighbours, but above all the poor and the sick, those who are usually despised and overlooked.” This year offers us the opportunity to divest ourselves of the gilded things in our lives that exclude us from others. Too many times we get caught up in a web of obsessions born of an obstinate need to have more and to be more, but Francis calls to step outside ourselves, to end the narcissism that enslaves us and to encounter those whom we have excluded from full participation in human society.
And when we approach the poor, we must end the ego-driven desire to serve them and to speak for them. The era of “voice for the voiceless” is over. Everyone has a voice. And we must encounter it.
There’s been a lot of talk in the past two years about what Pope Francis wants to change in the Church and in society. Bureaucratic failures, financial corruption, and wayward shepherds often dominate the conversation. But in the final analysis, it’s us that the Bishop of Rome wants to change.
Big heartedness, sharing joy and becoming poor for the poor—these things might not help you lose 10 pounds, but they will make our hurting nation and world more just and less cold.
Christopher Hale is a senior fellow at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and the co-founder of Millennial. He helped lead national Catholic outreach for President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.