For those of us who claim Paseo Del Norte as our home this has been quite a week on both sides of the Rio Grande River twisting its way through our metropolitan village. On the El Paso side of the divide, we had the much anticipated visit of Prince George, my grandson, who arrived via his regional jet service. On the other side of the river, we had the historic visit of Pope Francis, the pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church who made the first visit of a Pope to our community.
Needless to say, one visit received much more media coverage than the other, but at least at my house the visit of Prince George rocked my world in more ways than one. As you may know, my grandson will turn two years old in less than three weeks, so he has entered that wonderful phrase parent’s lovingly call the “terrible twos” because of the mobility, curiosity, and speed by which two year-olds investigate and attempt to rule and reign over their kingdoms. Prince George could also go by the nickname the “Texas Tornado” because he loves to pick up things and whirl them across the room, and he literally leaves a trail of destruction in his path. I love it!
In preparation for our “Texas Tornado” let’s just say Robyn and I had to batten down the hatches in preparation of his royal visit. We gathered the breakable items and hid them from his touch. We established borders and barricades to direct his path. We went to the story to storm up food for the siege. We swept, mopped, vacuumed so he would have a clean canvas to work with as he painted his masterpiece of demolition. Let’s face it when royal comes to visit serfs must go to work preparing the way for the king.
Meanwhile, the cities of El Paso and Cuidad Juarez prepared for the momentous visit of Pope Francis. On both sides of the river civic and law enforcement leaders laid the groundwork for his much anticipated arrival. On the El Paso side highways and schools closed offering the children and residents of the city a “holy holiday” while on the other side of the river, city officials and leaders of the diocese prepared the path for the Pope’s pilgrimage to the border symbolically tracing the path countless immigrants have traveled in search for a better life.
I must confess I had a wide variety of emotions as I personally prepared for the Pope’s visit. As a prominent Protestant leader in our city I felt a bit conflicted about how to respond, but as a citizen of the Kingdom of heaven I readily acknowledge his visit moved me.
I commend the local television stations for their live coverage of the Pope’s visit. I don’t know if ever in my lifetime I have witnessed secular media outlets freely offering their services to the faith community. By broadcasting live the words and actions of Pope Francis our two cities had the opportunity to experience the pageantry, passion, and preaching of the gospel of Jesus from sun up to sundown.
Pope Francis’ messages and symbolic actions spoke to the great challenges and injustices faced by countless thousands who live along the border. During the Mass late on Wednesday afternoon in the presence of over 200,000 of the faithful standing in his presence and another 28,000 joining in by the marvels of technology in the Sun Bowl, he declared: “Let us together ask God for the gift of conversion, the gift of tears, let us ask him to give us open hearts—open to his call heard in the suffering faces of countless men and women. There is still time to change. There is still a way out and a chance, time to implore the mercy of God….”
In response I can practically hear King Jesus saying: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV) Pope Francis and Prince George will head home this week, but King Jesus still reigns over our valley. He longs to reign over our hearts and lives. He has always been here. He never left.