As a good Jew, I can honestly say, I love this Pope.

I’ve been fond of him since his papal ascension, but the other night clinched it for me, when he turned down dinner with members of Congress to serve dinner to the homeless.

photo from the Huffington Post
photo from the Huffington Post

This guy has his priorities in check and he is using his position to set an example of right.

I know there are many sides and details to this issue that make it less than simple. I know, for instance, that the pope must depend on the generosity and contributions (financial and otherwise) of others to be so selfless.

I recognize that a priest takes a vow of celibacy and poverty, which allows him to focus all of his efforts on serving others. For there is no room in that equation for accumulation of material wealth or sitting back and watching Downton Abbey with your feet up and a glass of wine at your side.

We live very differently than a pope. So it is easy to put him on a pedestal.

But I think he deserves to be there.

Perhaps because I am not a Christian, I can admire him even more. He is welcoming and open-hearted with all people, which means the Jews, too. And after centuries of not-so-great treatment of the Jews by the Vatican, I welcome this change.

Ultimately, what strikes me as most impressive about this pope is his devotion to people on the fringe, and to helping those in poverty.

His singular focus in life is to serve those who need serving most. I write this as I sit in a trendy restaurant, with the simpatico pulse of electronica on the sound system and sleek black placemats holding my steaming coffee mug.

My life is so far from his, that I can see him as a beacon of right.

A friend said to me yesterday that it’s up to those of us who do accumulate material wealth to put it in the right places. Are we contributing enough? Are we contributing at all?

And I don’t just mean monetarily. Of our time, of our souls. Are we heart to heart with those who need our love? Do we actually shower the world with love, or do we hold back and view everything and everyone from a lens of what-can-they-do-for-me?

That’s the true challenge.

For the people who dwell in the poverty of the soul to reach out to those who dwell in the poverty of tangible things.

Our journey, then, is to rise up and effect change from a soul level, shedding the temptation of material things. In some ways, it’s a far greater challenge than the one Pope Francis faces.

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