Tuesday, February 23, 2016

In Person Report of Pope's Border Event

Jonah tossed overboard to waiting fish.
On February 17, Pope Francis celebrated a Mass at Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, a symbolic location marking the intersection between Mexico and the United States. Many watched the event on a large screen at the Sun Bowl stadium at the University of Texas at El Paso.

One of them was SCB News stringer "Tom," who shares his impressions (in blue). To begin, ticket prices were halved for Catholics during the week before the event, and the stadium was far from full.

The event was advertised as $10 tickets for parishioners and $15 for non-parishioners. I don’t imagine anyone paid $15 as El Paso is 80% Catholic.

I believe it was Wednesday Feb 10th when it was announced the ticket prices would be $5.  Only for February 10-12, Wednesday through Friday during the week before the event.

The event was from noon to 6 p.m., so the crowd size grew as the 4 p.m. Mass start time got closer. Seats  was nearly full on the shady side of the stadium.  The sunny side was much less full so pictures may be deceiving.  I estimated it was altogether about half-full, but not less, at the peak.  

Later, I heard it was 30,000 so I don’t doubt that number.  I heard that some people who had tickets got last minute tickets to go to Juarez and so went there instead.

It was exactly and everything what one would expect at that sort of an event. It was almost entirely in English where I expected a lot more Spanish used. The simulcast was Spanish, of course, with computer generated near real time English translation subtitles.

The attention of the crowd to the Mass was respectful and attentive.  It was as good or better than the attention paid during a typical suburban Sunday Mass.

It was very nice of Pope Francis to mention the gathering in El Paso.  I read a couple of reports that said the crowd “went wild” when he mentioned El Paso.  There was applause and cheers and a kind of lift feeling, but not "wild" applause, like at a football game.  Decorum was maintained even then.

The complete text of the Pope's homily can be found here. [It is not long, and worth reading.]

Tom said he liked this part the best:
The king listened to Jonah, the inhabitants of the city responded and penance was decreed. God’s mercy has entered the heart, revealing and showing wherein our certainty and hope lie: there is always the possibility of change, we still have time to transform what is destroying us as a people, what is demeaning our humanity. Mercy encourages us to look to the present, and to trust what is healthy and good beating in every heart.
The Prophet Jonah

If a reader should not be quite up to speed on the Prophet Jonah, it is certainly one of the most entertaining stories in the Bible, and not just because of the great fish. The city in question was Nineveh, which is described as a sprawling megalopolis with a huge population "and much cattle." So thorough was the king's acceptance of Jonah's message, of repentance even the livestock were put in sackcloth!

Remember, Nineveh was a country of gentiles; not even God's chosen people, yet He inspired them to repent.

Jonah sulks beneath the shade of the vine.

You would think Jonah would be thrilled with the effectiveness of his preaching, but no. He built a little shelter for himself outside of Nineveh so he could have a front row seat to the still hoped-for destruction of the city. God sent forth a vine that sheltered him from the sun, and Jonah's mood improved somewhat. But then God sent "a worm" to destroy the shady vine, plunging Jonah into bitterness. He even says that he want to die. 

God makes the point that Jonah valued a shady vine, so why shouldn't God value a great city? The Bible does not record whether Jonah ever got over God not destroying Nineveh.

The Bear wonders if the Pope is not making the point that we should rejoice in God's mercy, and not act like it is our possession, to withhold from those we consider too wicked to receive it. Further the Bear saith not.

Thanks to Tom.


  1. I think most faithful Catholics do not believe mercy is not for the wicked. However, they do believe contrition along with repentance is required for the mercy God. God may still be merciful to us in different ways even in our sinfulness. But again, we have to seek the forgiveness and mercy of God with regards to our sins. And this shows itself with the people of Nineveh, as they did not presume the mercy of God, but sought his mercy through penance and repentance.

  2. I agree, Andrew, that God is merciful to unrepentant sinners - after all it is HE that gives the gift of conversion: a look, a book, a word, a preacher, a missionary, an Angel - whatever the inspiration…all from Him when repentance is felt and conversion begins.


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