Browsing Facebook, I came across this great rendition of “Under Pressure ” (thanks, Buggy). Awesome isolated vocals by Freddie Mercury and David Bowie! It’s one of those songs that I love to sing along with, loudly and with feeling. And while some recycling of its parts (through sampling and other techniques) may have tarnished the song a little, it still remains a favorite.
I have to admit I didn’t really know all the lyrics. I would make up words for the parts that I didn’t understand, or loudly mutter nonsensical syllables. But with these isolated vocals I listened more closely. This exchange caught my ear:
“Why can’t we give love that one more chance?”
“Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves”
And it hit me: this is what Pope Francis is challenging us to understand, to accept and then to live. Love is messy. Love is chaotic. Love is painful and risky. Because love calls us to come out of ourselves and reach out to others. It especially calls us to reach out to “the people on the edge of the night.”
In his recent Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis makes this pitch. He calls on us to “take on the “smell of the sheep” so that “the sheep are willing to hear [our voices].” He prefers “a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets”, out on the edge of the night. And he reminds us that “the Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others, with their physical presence which challenges us, with their pain and their pleas, with their joy which infects us in our close and continuous interaction.”
While we might be “tempted to be that kind of Christian who keeps the Lord’s wounds at arm’s length”, Pope Francis tells us that “Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others”, to “enter into the reality of other people’s lives and know the power of tenderness.”
He wants us to love, and by loving, to change the way of caring about ourselves and begin caring for the people on the edge of the night. Who are these people?
Pope Francis tells us:
“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, ‘those who cannot repay you’ (Lk 14:14).”
We must become, as Christ, “close to the poor and the outcast”, to care for “society’s most neglected members.”
Pope Francis describes some of these “most neglected members”: the “homeless, the addicted, refugees, indigenous peoples, the elderly who are increasingly isolated and abandoned, and many others.”
In calling us to love, he asks us, “Where is your brother or sister who is enslaved? Where is the brother and sister whom you are killing each day in clandestine warehouses, in rings of prostitution, in children used for begging, in exploiting undocumented labour?”
I think Freddie and Ziggy might answer it this way: they are the people on the edge of the night.