He would choose someone poor. Not 'The Poor,' but a someone who happens to be poor. It would be Someone, a person with a face and a name and a particular story. Maybe the story would be sad, a story of loss or of suffering. Maybe the story would be happy, of hope and restoration.
He would make sure that we knew that this particular Someone was not simply an example. He would not make of him or of her an anecdote. The meaning of this Someone's story would not illustrate any point or serve as a metaphor for something else. The individual person and her story would stand only for what they are.
Pope Francis' Person of the Year would live in a poor country. He might be Catholic or Hindu or Buddhist. It wouldn't matter. What would matter is that this person would be otherwise unknown to the world at large, but not unknown to God. Pope Francis would lead us into the heart of this Someone, who to the world is no one, and in knowing her heart, I, another no one to the world, would discover my own heart.
In Pope Francis' Person of the Year, I would glimpse the face of Christ. In glimpsing Christ in him, I would see the Christ in me. In seeing Christ in me, I would see myself anew. I would see my poverty and my loss or suffering or hope or restoration.
Pope Francis would raise up this very particular Someone not as a way to garner attention or sell a magazine, but in awe and wonder, respecting the mystery of soul breathed into dust by God. He would raise her up the way he raises the bread and the wine and calls on the Spirit to make them holy, knowing that they already are made holy and that we raise them up in order to remember and restore the unity of Spirit and creation and humanity that God intended from the first fiat.
We would watch the raising up and know our own participation in it, in the raising and in the being raised, if only we allow that it is true. As we never stop seeing the bread and the wine, even as we receive them as the Body and Blood, neither would we stop seeing the Someone in all his uniqueness, flawed and gifted, but we would see too the transfiguration of man, of woman, into the Body of Christ, glorified.
This is sacrament, the raising, the recognition of truth in the breaking of bread, in the breaking of bodies and spirits by a still-sin-filled world, through which brokenness the light of Spirit breaks in and heals and makes whole and makes holy.
Not metaphor, but sacrament, this Person of the Year. No magazine cover can capture this truth.
As for me, for you, for us, who would we choose? Who is our Person of the Year? In whose eyes have we looked this year and recognized in them the complexity of their humanity and the holiness of the indwelling Spirit of God? In whose eyes have we seen our own humanity, our own holiness?
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