Opinion by the Rev. James Martin, Special to CNN
(CNN) – I could barely look at the photos, but I knew that I must.
Wednesday in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis met, embraced and kissed a man suffering from a rare disease called neurofibromatosis, a painful and disfiguring skin condition.
Photos of the Pope hugging a man whose face was blanketed with tumors struck a deep chord in people across the world. When I posted them to my public Facebook page, I received almost 300 comments in the space of a day.
Why do these photos speak to so many people so profoundly? Let me suggest three reasons.
For the Christian, the image of the Pope’s embrace calls up memories of the man whose name Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio chose after his election as Pope: St. Francis of Assisi.
As a young man, riding his horse one day outside of Assisi, Francis came upon a leper, a person suffering from one of the many skin diseases common in the early 13th century.
From childhood Francis had had a horror of lepers. Yet because of an earlier dream in which God had asked Francis to change his life, the formerly dissolute youth saw that something new was being asked of him. He dismounted his horse, pressed a coin into the leper’s hand and kissed him.
MORE ON CNN: Pope's embrace melts hearts
When he jumped back on his horse and turned to wave farewell, Francis saw that the leper had disappeared – legend has it that it was Christ.
It was a turning point in the life of Francis of Assisi; from then on he would devote himself to the poor and marginalized. He had embraced, to use Mother Teresa’s famous expression, “Christ in distressing disguise.”
The Pope has done the same; Christians recognize this on a deep level.
More broadly, the Pope’s embrace recalls images of Jesus’ healing of lepers, again a blanket term for a variety of skin diseases common in first-century Judea and Galilee.
In a frequent theme of the Gospels, Jesus of Nazareth not only heals but touches people considered “unclean,” dangerous to be around and unworthy of inclusion in society.
In the Gospel of Mark, a leper begs Jesus for healing, by saying, “If you choose, you can make me clean.”
Mark’s Gospel tells what happened next: “Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean.’ Immediately the leprosy left him and he was made clean.”
But the English translation of this powerful story is weak indeed.
The original Greek word for “moved with pity” is the Greek "splagchnistheis."
This means that Jesus felt compassion in his bowels, the place where the ancients believed that the emotions resided. In other words, Jesus felt it in his guts. This is the kind of compassion we are called to have and to express. This is the kind of compassion we see in the photo of the Pope’s embrace.
Even more broadly, for believers, the Pope’s kiss reminds us of God. This is the way God loves us. God loves us in all our pain, in all our struggles, in all our humanity.
MORE ON CNN: Even atheists loooove this Pope
Few of us suffer from such a terrible disease as does the man in the photo; not many of us are physically disfigured. But many of us feel internally disfigured – unworthy of unconditional love. Yet God wants nothing more than to embrace us as tightly as the Pope’s embrace.
In this photo, on a level deeper than we might even be able to recognize, we see an image of God.
In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus’ tale of a father’s reconciliation with a son, there is a wonderful line. When the wayward son returns home, after squandering his inheritance on a life of debauchery, Jesus says that the father, seeing his son from afar, rushes out to greet him. The original Greek then describes the father doing something wonderful.
The English translation of Luke’s Gospel says that the father “ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.” Again, a literal translation from the original Greek is more beautiful, and will resonate with anyone who sees the photos. "Kai dramōn epepesen epi ton trachēlon autou kai katephilēsen auton" can be translated as “And running, he fell upon his neck and fervently kissed him.”
Do you ever wonder what God’s love is like? Look at Jesus. Look at St. Francis of Assisi. And look at the Pope.
The Rev. James Martin is a Jesuit priest and editor at large of America magazine, and author of "The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything." His book "Jesus: A Pilgrimage" will be released in March.
Until your god can heal an amputee then there is no reason for him. There is NO evidence that this god exists.
Tell your mother that; then she'll disagree with you because God gave her you.
No, evolution did.
Odd you would think my mother has YOUR beliefs...my mother did NOT think that any gods had any personal interest in anyone, and she certainly did not think that god gave me to her.
I'm sick and tired of you religious nutjobs acting like we are the stupid ones. You are the stupid one for believing in such nonsense. Quit trying to force your stupid beliefs on other people. Next time I see god I will thank him for giving birth to a bigot like you.
Everything God created is perfect and everything is happening for a reason
You think that this world is perfect? Wow.
This world is not perfect and will not be perfect because we were given free will and since the beginning of time, we humans have always managed to move from one upheaval to another. If everyone loved one another and treated each other the way we are instructed to, we might get to a pretty good place. Ever wonder how come the only time we, as a country, or as a world can come together is in a time of great catastrophe. Kinda makes you wonder what the big guy has in store next to try and get us to work together.
Did humans have free will when God massacred the people in Sodom and Gomorrah? How about when Moses was ordered to massacre 32,000 innocent men women and children? God sounds just like a terrorizer to me...
If what you say is true, then it is proof that god had nothing to do with writing the bible, since it is so clearly flawed.
childhood cancer. hmpf.
Wonderful example of kindness and compassion. Can't imagine what that poor man goes through on a daily basis.
'Poor'? From what I understand the Pope and the Vatican are Billionaires.
And he is just doing his job. I'm fine with that. But don't glorify this man any more than a fireman or policeman, who is also facing stuff every day.
@Sly, I think Madtown is referring to the man with the tumors.
oh yeah – 'that' man. You're probably right ...
And this is why Gollum lived on a lake under a mountain. Now do you understand?
Props to Francis. He is attempting to live up the the ideal of his position. Keep it up.
As for the article though...
"Do you ever wonder what God’s love is like? Look at Jesus. Look at St. Francis of Assisi. And look at the Pope."
Why not look at all of God's "love", such as what caused this man's disease, or Leprosy, or Childhood Leukemia.
Sure, Christians will say that we live in a "fallen" world, but even if you believe that, who let it "fall"?
Who would curse an entire universe and everyone in it because of a single misstep by someone who, by definition, didn't know any better?
Didn't know better? They were told NOT to take the fruit from that tree.
Perfect beings don't make mistakes.
You're right. It was willful rebellion.
Perfect beings don't fail in any regard. Perfect beings are incapable of sin, because they wouldn't do anything incorrectly. Perfect beings don't undertake any behavior that would require all of us to be punished for life(unjust to begin with). No "fall of man". So sorry for you.
"Perfect beings don't fail in any regard."
Perfect only means they haven't YET corrupted themselves. So until they sinned, they were perfect.
"Perfect beings are incapable of sin, because they wouldn't do anything incorrectly."
No. They had free will. If they didn't have free will, they wouldn't be perfect BECAUSE of their lack of ability to fall. Meager "robots" would also be absent of love. How could you call that perfect?
You have stated before that there can only be one truth do you still stand by that?
I'm not a post-modern, if that's what you mean.
Interesting(and completely incorrect) definition of Perfect. But, then again......it's you. It's also 100% UNJUST to punish someone(in this case all of humanity), for the misdeeds of others(A & E).
You ducked this the other day.
Catholics claim to be the largest Christian denomination and most people agree with them. Your much smaller sect claims that catholics are not Christians. Both statements cannot be true, the truth lies in the eye of the beholder. What maybe be true to you maybe not to me. You want to usurp the right to tell me what is true, I deny you that right to dictate to me what is truth, do you understand.
"Interesting(and completely incorrect) definition of Perfect."
Then provide the definition. because when I looked it up, it doesn't say anywhere perfect means it's incapable of falling.
"It's also 100% UNJUST to punish someone(in this case all of humanity), for the misdeeds of others(A & E)."
He doesn't need to do that. And doesn't. Every one of us has committed a sin and so He is just in punishing us for it.
I think I'm right. The Catholics think they are right. We can't BOTH be right. Law of Non-Contradiction. Only one (or neither) can be true. Just because we both THINK we're right doesn't make it so. So the question is, which is true?
And if the question is whether the Catholics are a denomination, they aren't. They don't even call themselves that.
So you want the right to determine what is true, not just for yourself but everyone. "I think I am right" des not make you right, that is why you have such a limited belief system because everything comes down to "I think I am right" therefore I can and do reject all knowledge that does not agree with my beliefs.
"So you want the right to determine what is true, not just for yourself but everyone."
Not at all. For instance, with God, you and I have weighed the evidence (or at least I hope you have) and come to different conclusions. Only one of us is right, however. And for your sake, you better be SURE you're right.
" "I think I am right" des not make you right, that is why you have such a limited belief system because everything comes down to "I think I am right" therefore I can and do reject all knowledge that does not agree with my beliefs."
My belief system isn't limited at all. One major difference in my worldview and yours is that I have God's Word and it never changes. You only have man's word and it changes by the day. Thus you can never be sure of anything.
I have God's Word and it never changes. You only have man's word and it changes by the day
Hilarious irony alert!
What, exactly, is ironic about it?
I think I am right which makes about 7 billion people that do not believe in a young earth wrong.
I think I am right that means that the only Christians there are believe like I do.
I think I am right therefore all the science that proves evolution is wrong.
What I cannot understand because I cannot find an explanation in the bible , I simply reject.
My religion/beliefs (Baptist) are exactly what I want them to be, the absolute truth, and therefore I can no longer be wrong or have to think for myself. Hallelujah!
"I think I am right which makes about 7 billion people that do not believe in a young earth wrong."
Thinking I'm right doesn't make me right. Please stop misrepresenting me. You only make yourself look foolish. And if I am right, those 7 billion would be wrong (which of course isn't correct ... this blog even said old-earthers are quite few in numbers.)
"I think I am right that means that the only Christians there are believe like I do."
On the essentials, yes. On minor issues, we can disagree and still be brothers.
"I think I am right therefore all the science that proves evolution is wrong."
There's NO science that proves evolution. Science rejects evolution. Once again, you're misrepresenting.
"What I cannot understand because I cannot find an explanation in the bible , I simply reject."
Not at all. The Bible doesn't explain everything. I'm starting to believe you have no idea what you're talking about at all.
I have no idea of what I am talking about, HAHAHA, and unfortunately you actually believe that, the sheer ignorant disregard for knowledge by the likes of you is just amazing.
What knowledge have I disregarded?
"There's NO science that proves evolution. Science rejects evolution. Once again, you're misrepresenting."
You remind me of Professor Behe at the Dover/Kitzmiller trial.
Professor Behe was questioned concerning his 1996 claim that science would never find an evolutionary explanation for the immune system. He was presented with fifty-eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system; however, he simply insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that it was not "good enough."
I don't know who that man is and I don't know what was presented to him as evidence, so it's hard for me to comment. But just a guess is that natural selection is often sited by evolutionists as evidence of evolution. The problem is that it isn't. They aren't on the same level. We see natural selection working and so can acknowledge it. But natural selection only demonstrates losses of information. Darwinian evolution (changes resulting in a difference species) would require additional genetic information. We've NEVER seen that happen and have NEVER seen any evidence of one becoming something else. It isn't testable, isn't repeatable, isn't demonstrable ... thus doesn't meet the scientific standard.
What kind of a so-called god would create knowledge and then deny access to it to the beings he created, just so he could then impose unmitigated pain and suffering on their descendants for all time. Cruel and evil is what comes to mind in describing your god. Or let's put it this way. If the choice is an eternity with your version of god, or an eternity in hell, give me hell.
Without the "knowledge of right and wrong" how are they supposed to know that disobedience is wrong?
I should think that with all they saw God do, with the relationship they had, they would trust Him. Instead, they put their trust in what the serpent said.
You mean trust the guy who puts a luscious fruit tree in the middle of the garden and then says "Don't eat it"?
Or the guy who, upon being disobeyed by two people, curses the entire universe? (I guess that happened afterwards though)
As a metaphor of the awakening of mankind to higher awareness and reasoning it makes sense, i.e. most other animals behave according to instinct most of the time, but man, being aware, can look at the consequences of his actions.
As an actual historical event, it makes little sense.
"You mean trust the guy who puts a luscious fruit tree in the middle of the garden and then says "Don't eat it"?"
I mean trust the Guy who demonstrated to them He is the Creator. Who walked with them in the garden and had a personal relationship with them. It was His garden and His tree. If He said not to touch it, they shouldn't have touched it.
" If He said not to touch it, they shouldn't have touched it."
There you go again making judgments based on "knowledge of good and evil", which they didn't have yet, right?
How are you today feeling honest for a change? If you are asked questions are you going to bob and weave, go rope a dope and eventually take a dive so you don't have to answer? Let me know so I don't waste my time on you.
If your god created everything he/it also created the serpent, for what reason would a loving god create a serpent in the first instance? This doesn't make much sense.
"There you go again making judgments based on "knowledge of good and evil", which they didn't have yet, right?"
They clearly had some knowledge. So what exactly was revealed to them after they ate, we don't know completely. What we are told is that they recognized their nakedness. They felt ashamed. They knew they went against God.
The Garden of Eden story has a simple moral, and it isn't about angering God.
Once you attain self-awareness, you must also accept self-responsibility – and that is a tough pill to swallow.
Obedience means abdication of personal responsibility – whether good or bad, the onus for what happens to you is on the head of the one you're obeying.
Once you choose to act as a free thinking agent, you can no longer bask at the comforting fire of blissful ignorance – you must accept the consequences for the choices you make.
"They knew they went against God."
Sure....*after* they ate the fruit of the tree of "knowledge of good and evil".
I like your take except for "you can no longer bask at the comforting fire of blissful ignorance "
=>You can bask at the comforting fire of blissful ignorance.
=>That is the plan of salvation, that is the fulfillment of creation.....i.e. to know that blissful ignorance is better than desire of the knowledge of good and evil. Your use of the word ignorance if translated from the Word of God to Hebrew then Greek then English loving God such that you completely trust the way not any other deception.
=>two thumbs up Doc you have seen the light
Thanks, I think... ;-)
I've repeatedly said that I believe the Bible to be astonishingly insightful when it comes to human nature.
If it didn't speak to the core instincts, vices and virtues that drive humanity, it would't have survived for as long as it has.
That's what good mythology does – tells us about ourselves in a relatable fashion.
If you substitute Doc Vestibule in place of Cyrus what happens?
From Isaiah 45:2:
1Thus says the LORD to Cyrus His anointed, Whom I have taken by the right hand, To subdue nations before him And to loose the loins of kings; To open doors before him so that gates will not be shut: 2"I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars. 3"I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden wealth of secret places, So that you may know that it is I, The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name
=>now then, God can work through you and will do so. Why do you persist in the ways of man (which after some time are boring if nothing else) when a hidden wealth of secret places awaits ? Hint: the secret is hidden in the humility of knowing we are blissfully ignorant.
I believe this is one of the best Pope we ever had, true man and humble, i believe in my faith more than ever and all because he is truly is a man of God
Why do you believe that? Is it that you really want it to be true or do you have facts that back it up?
This is that cute child that annoyed the pope a few stories ago.
You go vengeful god – That'll show 'em!
Maybe if he embraced tea party patriots everywhere he could give them some brains....... hmmmm... nah.
Leave it to the childish haters on here to use a good story to trash a religion. You give atheists a bad name.
The Pope is getting compliments from all sides. Everyone seems to like him. He looks like he may be trying to jump the church forward by a hundred years or so.
And that is why Observer why you don't go into that group I described. You seem open to good things happening and appreciate them for what they are. Unlike some people on here that can't just enjoy a good story about the Pope and has to trash a whole religion.
I enjoy discovering all the fascinating elements in life. My main complaint on here is hypocrites who try to deprive others of enjoying equal privileges.
Well, you'll see those people return under the name of Colin and Reaity.....and probably some others as well.
No one compares to all the fake names used by one person: faith / hharri / etc. And she so lacks honesty as a "Christian" that she uses other people's names.
I agree this is all nice and warm. Heartfelt thanks to the Pope. And I, as an atheist, can't do more than He does. Actually, I don't do nothing.
But then, as Mandela said the other day...
“The capacity of gentle souls to unite their voices in a message of peace and strength is certainly the greatest gift of mankind—I’m not denying any of that. But when you’re a 94-year-old man with a horrible lung infection, you need trained medical professionals. That’s really most important. All that prayer stuff is, frankly, pretty useless.”
The Onion is a comedy site ... not the best source of information :)
Some other sources..
John 14:13-14 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it
guess the pope isn't praying right.
what abject foolishness your religion is!!!
Man you are a jack@ss.
Why do Christians get so angry when the Bible is quoted to them?
I don't know any that have.
"I don't know any that have."
You just called someone a name that Jesus would not have used and he quoted from the Bible.
"You just called someone a name that Jesus would not have used and he quoted from the Bible."
And your point is what?
You make two errors. The first is assuming I am christian.
The second is assuming I was upset because of the quote.
I just think he was being a jack@ss because he takes this good story and decides to use it just to promote his own propoganda.
You were right that my assumptions were wrong. My question about why Christians get mad when people quote the Bible is a valid one. If you read more of these blogs, you'll see many Christians getting upset and refusing to answer questions when they don't like the Bible quotes used.
Address his point rather than duck the issue by calling him names. It makes it look like you don't have an answer to his point of view.
But did the historic Jesus utter the words of John 14: 13-14?????
As per many contemporary NT scholars, he did not. For example, see Professor Gerd Ludemann's an-alysis in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, pp. 535-540.
James 5:14-16 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
what a crock your religion is!!!
This pope is THE MAN!
Why is the pope pushing that ugly h00ker's head into his lap?
So long as it is not a child, I don't care.
It's really good to see the pope make such a gracious move. It's in contrast to the Bible where God doesn't want disfigured or handicapped people in his church as leaders.
I wonder how many people have and will pray that this poor, disfigured man be cured. The Pope said he prays for him. But, he won't be cured. God only "cures" people who would have recovered anyway. This is why he ignores amputees.
Good to see your comments again Colin. We'll said as usual.
if I was powerful enough to create the universe, I would heal that poor man.
that's the difference between me and your god.
Dyslexic doG, I get your point, but even if you were powerful enough to create the Universe, and even if you DID heal that man, you would still be blamed for it. For example, some people would blame you for giving the man the disease in the first place. Other people would deny you existed and say that the man healed himself, or maybe say that he never had the disease in the first place. Or, what if you created the Universe, gave that guy a disease, and then healed him... and when he believed in you, peoples started making fun of him, telling him that you were the sky fairy. I think no matter what you did, a lot of people would still never believe in doG.
Then all dyslexic bob would need to do is show himself to all people on earth instead of relying on 'faith' that ur god so aptly chooses to rely on.
Nobody doubts the sun exists as we can SEE it. In the same way, god can just show himself and the media all over the world would broadcast this historic event to everyone thus ending the debate on god's existence.
Until then, u will always be trapped with the 'what if' statements which is ur current predicament.
As much as I dislike the Catholic church, and all religion in general, this still moved me to tears. What a kind man this pope is.
He has the love of God in his heart.
I like him.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.