By Joe Rector

Somehow UT managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in its latest game against Florida. Plenty of social media buzz spewed forth, and many of us are plenty disgusted enough with the entire thing to stop putting ourselves through such anguish. We’ll pray that a more creative offense evolves sooner than later to take advantages of all the talent available.

I stomped through the house and even uttered a few expletives when the game ended with a Florida touchdown. My mood was fouler than a wounded bear’s, and for a while, my entire week looked to be a rather sour one. However, I had a few seconds of clarity that allowed me to put things into perspective about life in general.

Sure, a UT win was important to me, but something much more important this past week caused it to be a wonderful one, and it made most everything else trivial. I’m talking about the visit to the U.S. by Pope Francis.

First of all, no, I’m not a member of the Catholic Church. The fact is that I’ve never cared much for the institution or its rather restrictive set of beliefs and dictates. Neither have I had an affinity for past popes. They seemed too far removed from life and too tired to bring energy to the church.

Pope Francis has changed all of that, not for just me but for all the world. The man loves people and refuses to allow his position to keep them from him. His passion for all folks is a bright light in a world where selfishness prevails.

The man came to this country with a message. It was one that stressed loving others and taking care of the earth. With unapologetic, yet loving, frankness, Pope Francis spoke to swells of people in churches, world organizations, and even the hallowed halls of our own federal government.

I suspect that one of his greatest accomplishments was the influence he had on John Boehner, Speaker of the House. Boehner resigned following the pope’s visit, and many suspect that he did so after heeding the advice of the pontiff to do something positive. Perhaps the congressman no longer had the stomach for the divisiveness that characterizes our federal government.

Pope Francis brought with him more than just masses and speeches. He brought a presence of God that too often goes unnoticed in our world today. The man’s smile and his eyes pierced even the most hardened hearts. His simple goodness was infectious, and he won over millions of folks during his visit.

As I understand it, the pope is God’s representative here on earth. I’m not sure about past men who held the position, but I feel sure that Pope Francis fits the bill. He brightens those in his presence; his humility and accessibility to the common person endears him to them.

Best of all, Pope Francis is someone who is able to show us what is good and inspires us to begin living by it. He gives a glimpse into what joy and peace can be discovered by living a life faithful to our God and His desires for us. Look at the faces of those who stood for hours to get a glimpse of the man. They shunned the cares of this world and focused instead on the excitement that being in the presence of someone who lives a Christ-like existence.

I’m not happy that UT lost to the team from Florida for the eleventh straight time; the Vols should have defeated them and gone about their business. However, when I compare that “game” with a visit from the most popular pope that the Catholic Church has ever had, the importance of that college contest dulls. I am glad that Pope Francis visited our country and that he touched some many lives. For one week, he gave us a glimpse at what we can be and what we can have. I only hope that our leaders can take lessons and become such wonderful, inspirational leaders. I also hope that each of us can live lives that center of kindness, love, and charity. Heaven knows we need it.