And there he was.
I was standing a few yards away from Pope Francis when he was about to leave the stage and had the view of him which the twenty thousand something people then in the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas were surely hoping for. Clutching a device inside my pocket, I was in the desperate move to execute the plan I carefully prepared for months for days. The papal guards missed my move, perhaps I was so skilled that I managed to sneak in the instrument that surely would capture the Holy Father. In split second, I lunged forward and took the device in plain sight to finally put my plan in completion. The papal guards, who caught sight of me, realized it was too late to stop me. With a smile of a victorious jihadist, I took the pope a picture.
But standing between me and the pope was a sea of bishops competing with the rest of ‘God’s children’ to take photo of him. I failed with my first attempt for I captured not the Holy Father but a bishop’s armpit instead. Terror came to me when I found myself actually surrounded by humongous bishops and yes, got stuck between holy armpits! And so I summoned all my faculties to get through these armpit traps to grab this one last chance to see the pope. Never mind be drenched by the rain. Never mind be seen by my brothers as another Kiko fanatic. It’s now or never, such was my thought. In an instant, I was a die-hard fan.
But a recent article in the newspaper quoted Pope Francis saying he doesn’t want to be somebody’s idol. He doesn’t like people to be his fans. “Focus on Jesus, not me,” the pope insisted. I realized that Jesus too doesn’t want to be somebody’s idol either in the first place. In the gospel, Jesus didn’t want the crowd to follow him as if he’s a celebrity. The Lord wanted the people to be witnesses, not a mob dogging him wherever he goes. Pope Francis perhaps has this in mind too. During his visit, he always reminds the crowd to be witnesses of Christ, not some packs of die-hard fans who are willing to sell kidneys for exchange of papal selfies. Focus on Jesus, not me.
So I ceased to be a fan of Pope Francis for a reason. The pope wanted everyone of us to be ambassadors for Christ instead. He reminds us that the Lord calls us to be disciples, witnesses of God’s love to the world that has gone thirsty for meaning. How are we going to do that? Pope Francis left us an example during his apostolic visit in the Philippines: Mercy and Compassion! □