Pope Francis – Bridge Builder … Or?

by | Nov 15, 2019 | Formation, Reflections, Vincentian Family | 1 comment

Jesus the ultimate bridge builder

Jesus was always building bridges, reaching across the boundaries. Just look at the kind of people Jesus associated with…

  • ‘the immoral’ (prostitutes and sinners)
  • ‘the marginalized’ (lepers and sick people)
  • heretics’ (Samaritans and pagans)
  • collaborators’ (publicans and soldiers)
  • ‘the weak’ and ‘the poor’ (who have neither power nor knowledge)

Let’s not forget Jesus was in his flesh the ultimate bridge builder. The Word became flesh!” He bridged the greatest gap we can imagine… the gap between God and humanity. He entered into our world. He became one of us. We did not earn God’s love. God reached out to us and continues to reach out to us even when we are furthest away.

“You must decide!”

Francis reminds us we must decide whether we will be bridge builders or builders of walls. He writes,

  • “Peace builds bridges, whereas hatred is the builder of walls. You must decide, in life: either I will make bridges or I will make walls.
  • Walls divide and hatred grows: when there is division, hatred grows. Bridges unite, and when there is a bridge hatred can go away, because I can hear the other and speak with the other.
  • When you shake the hand of a friend, of a person, you make a human bridge. You make a bridge. Instead, when you strike someone, when you insult another person, you build a wall. Hatred always grows with walls.
  • At times, it may happen that you want to make a bridge and you offer your hand, but the other party does not take it; these are the humiliations that we must suffer in life in order to do good.
  • But always make bridges. And you have come here: you were stopped and sent home, then you took a risk on the bridge to try again: this is the right attitude, always. Is there a difficulty that prevents me from doing something?
  • Go back and then go ahead, return and move on. This is what we must do: make bridges. Do not fall to the ground, do not say, ‘Oh, I can’t’, no: always look for a way of building bridges. You are there, with your hands, make bridges, all of you! Take each other by the hand. I want to see lots of human bridges. … This is the plan for life: make bridges, human bridges.”
    Greetings to young Italians in Krakow, Poland, July 28, 2016

It is not rocket science – Begin with simple words

Here are some simple thought-starters we can use to build bridges in our daily encounters. Jeff Schmit offers a reflection in Forbes Magazine: 15 Phrases That Build Bridges Between People. Consider sprinkling these phrases into your daily conversations:

  1. Thank You: Common courtesy? Sure. But tell me this: When was the last time you forgot (or rejected) gratitude? Whether given in private or public, a sincere ‘thanks’ creates goodwill. Don’t forget your mother’s advice: “Say please.” People are always happier doing a favor than taking an order.
  2. I Don’t Know: We don’t have all the answers. And it scares us to death. That’s a perfect point to start a dialogue…over facts and fears. Facing the unknown – and seeking assurances and answers – bonds people like nothing else. All you have to do is first admit what you don’t know.
  3. Tell Me More: “I’m all ears.” It’s the ultimate conversation starter! When you signal that you’re open and intrigued, the other party will respond in kind. And who can resist flattery? Use phrases like “What do you think” or “What would you do” to acknowledge someone’s expertise. In doing so, you’re courting authentic suggestions, even if they challenge convention or skewer a sacred cow. If your interest is genuine, you may just fuel a productive exchange.
  4. What I Hear You Saying Is: Ever wonder if someone has been listening to you? Be assured the person speaking to you is. So here’s a way to keep the ideas flowing. Step back and rephrase what someone says. In fact, vaguely distort or stray from it. This offers two benefits. It implies that you’re engaged, increasing the likelihood you’ll get more detail. It also helps you gauge the other person’s preparation, reasoning, and seriousness. It’s a win-win for everyone.
  5. I Understand: People have such an innate desire to connect. They long to know they’re not alone, seeking others who’ve been where they are – and have successfully made it through. Helping someone doesn’t always involve making suggestions or calls. It may just involve being there, paying attention to what a person has to say. Most times, that’s enough to show you understand.

What phrases do you use to make people feel more comfortable, motivated, and appreciated?

See ten more simple approaches to building bridges in your relationships in Forbes Magazine 15 Phrases That Build Bridges Between People.


Food for thought

  • Is building bridges a bridge too far for me?
  • With whom have I built a bridge today? Last week? Last month?
  • What would happen in our divided culture if we used these phrases more?

1 Comment

  1. Natalie Monteza

    So true.
    Thank-you, Fr Freund