The hype surrounding the Pope and his visit to America fascinates me. One can go to news websites, and the expectation for his arrival is everywhere. So much so, in fact, that it seems the media doesn't even know what to do about it. They've created things like "Pope Watch" and "Differences between JPII and Benedict" in order to try to categorize and make some sense out of his visit. They ask: "How can Catholics say they side with the poor when the pope lives surrounded with so much gold and splendor? And how can a pope claim infallibility when the Vatican has to spend so much time 'clarifying' offensive remarks?" They try to show how American Catholicism is different from this Pope's Catholicism. Is he God's rottweiler? Does he love the Church in America? Is he going to reprimand us?
I don't know where else these objections and questions could come from, other than the fact that most people want to ignore the Pope's real purpose which he himself has clearly stated: "Christ is the face of God present among us. Through him, our lives reach fullness, and together, both as individuals and peoples, we can become a family united by fraternal love, according to the eternal plan of God the Father. I know how deeply rooted this Gospel message is in your country. I am coming to share it with you, in a series of celebrations and gatherings."
It is this real reason that generates the original wonder. Among all this hype, I can imagine being there among the apostles and pharisees in the presence of Jesus. There were those who tried to trap him, to figure him out, there are those who might even take his social teachings to heart and try to "apply" them, and then there are the few who stand in wonder, saying, without presumption, without hiding any of their humanity, "Who is this man?" Somehow, in some way, he summoned them from their sleep, he awoke in them a desire for life, for fullness.
And so, the importance of the Pope's visit to America does not lie in the media's supposed reprimand he could supply, nor the intellectual and cultural musings or judgments he may have. Most people overlook the elementary fact of their wonder and curiosity in the presence of this man; they try to organize, stifle, or explain it away, rather than remaining in front of the Event. This remaining requires a simplicity and a love for truth.
Ultimately the most amazing fact is that the man himself, the very flesh that laughs, cries, goes to the bathroom and has to practice piano, is the successor of Peter and the guarantee of Christ's presence in the world. Were this not true, were this rock no longer there, as my friend Msgr. Albacete says, I would no longer want to live on this earth.