The Gospel of Mark, whose feast day is celebrated today, is considered the oldest of the four canonical gospels, the collecting other written accounts and the oral tradition in a systematic narrative to tell a non-Jewish Christian community the good news of Jesus.  The saying “Preach the gospel always, use words only when necessary” is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.  The life of St. Francis was a major inspiration for St. Ignatius.  In his the “Contemplation on the Love of God” that conclude the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius instructs us that “love ought to show itself in deeds over and above words.”  So far Pope Francis’ deeds of humble love and service speak volumes.

Since the first moments and weeks of his new mission, Pope Francis has inspired us with examples of humility.  He asked for our prayers and blessing for his predecessor and himself before offering his for Rome and for the world.  Commenting on his choice to be called Francis for St. Francis of Assisi, he declared, “Oh, how I would like a poor Church, and for the poor.”  He chose a simple white garment instead of custom royal robes and lives in a small hotel suite instead of the Apostolic Palace.  He shocked some during Holy Week by washing the feet of men and women in a youth detention center on Holy Thursday.

His solidarity with the suffering and marginalized moves hearts, inspires imagination and creates a tenderness toward each other.  In a recent report from Argentina, NCR’s John Allen shared an anecdote about an incident on a Buenos Aires bus.  An elderly woman diffused an escalating argument between the driver and irate passenger by reminding them “we’ve got an Argentine pope,” whereupon everyone relaxed and smiled.

The Gospel of Mark concludes:  Then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.  But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the work through accompanying signs.  How might you work with the Lord today, sharing your love in deeds?

—Jenéne Francis, Provincial Assistant for Pastoral Ministries, Chicago-Detroit Province and Wisconsin Province