National dailies, a day after the Pope came in from his Tacloban visit, quoted him telling Cardinal Tagle thus, this trip is for me. I’m learning. I was intrigued by this. Later that day the Pope was to tell the youth gathered at UST to learn to be evangelized by the poor. I thought then that the Pope himself must have undergone a significant personal encounter in Tacloban. An indication was that this otherwise eloquent Pope, adept and comfortable at meeting and conversing with heads of States and other global VIPs, was reduced to ineloquence in a locale known to the world only because of Haiyan. In his impromptu homily there, he said
So many of you have lost everything. I don’t know what to say to you, but the Lord does know what to say to you. Some of you lost part of your families, all I can do is keep silence, and I walk with you all with my silent heart. Many of you have asked the Lord: “Why, Lord?” And to each of you, your heart, Christ responded from his heart upon the cross. I have no more words to tell you. Let us leave it to Christ. He is the Lord. He understands us because he underwent all the trials that we, or you, have experienced.
Just as the typhoon survivors and pligrims at the airport grounds were touched by the Pope’s presence so was he by his own experience (i.e. the Vicar of Christ from powerful Vatican in inexpensive rain gear saying Mass in the open, amid storm winds, at a makeshift altar of indigenous materials) and the sight of ordinary people before him. The phenomenon is inexplicable as that of love at first sight or encounter between soul mates. In such serendipitous encounters, there is acknowledgment that something or someone is larger than each and both of them.
Indeed, in the media debriefing on his way back to Rome, the Pope says
The most moving moment… For me the Mass in Tacloban was very moving. Very moving. To see all of God’s people standing still, praying, after this catastrophe, thinking of my sins and those people, it was moving, a very moving moment.
This encounter story wraps up the meaning of the theme behind the Pope’s visit, mercy and compassion, in that from the Pope to the parish priest to the lay person, one cannot meaningfully and successfully bring the Gospel – works of mercy and compassion – to another unless one is first and continues to be transformed by personal experiences of the Gospel. On a more secular note, significant change starts with the self or within the organization; that this change can stagnate unless rejuvenated constantly by regenerative experiences.
Of course the opposite of this is that one fails to be moved, to weep as the Pope calls it, at the sight of people suffering.