What are you going to do?

It was a simple question from the humble man who happens to lead the Catholic Church on Earth.

Fresh off the plane from New York, the theme from Rocky probably still stuck in his head, courtesy of the Bishop Shanahan High School marching band that greeted him at the airport, Pope Francis made his debut in Philly.

In true Francis form, he began his homily at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul with a question challenging in its simplicity:

What are you going to do?

The words from his sermon the night before at Madison Square Garden in New York were still ringing in my head as I watched him.

To the New York crowd, he had spoken poetry - of that city's deepening divide between towering wealth and crippling poverty.

"In the rapid pace of change . . . so many faces pass by unnoticed," the pope said. "They are the foreigners, the children who go without schooling, those deprived of medical insurance, the homeless, the forgotten elderly."

Those who have no "right" to be there.

Those who stand at "the edges of our great avenues."

Those who dwell in "deafening anonymity."

His words to the New York crowd were a perfect description of where we are in this city - a city in the midst of historic transformation, but one that, in its race to become more, can be blind to the lesser among us.

Children trapped in crumbling schools. Families trapped in abandoned neighborhoods and torn apart by mass incarceration and violence. Immigrants trapped in the shadows.

And there in the basilica, Francis asked us all: What are we going to do?

And later, when he arrived at Independence Mall to rapturous cheers, to take his place at Lincoln's lectern, he used the historic backdrop, with its pageantry and pomp, to shine again a spotlight on those drowning in that deafening anonymity.

He spoke in Spanish - to a crowd with so many Spanish-speakers - about immigration. Immigration, in a time when so much of the poisonous rhetoric surrounding that issue seems aimed at stripping immigrants of their humanity.

In his simple, pastoral way, Francis reaffirmed that humanity.

"You should never be ashamed of your traditions," he said. "Do not be ashamed of what is part of you, your lifeblood."

And when the subtitles on the Jumbotron cut out, the crowd cheered anyway. He was speaking their language.

So, Philadelphia: What are we going to do?

Are we going to pay lip service to this pope we've invited into the heart of our city?

This pope of the people whose humility and humanity - and that smile - cuts across all faiths?

This pope whose visit we have spent months losing our collective mind over?

Or are we going to heed his call to be better for each other - to be a better city? To renew dialogue on issues that too often seem easy to turn our backs on?

Let's not let the pope's message be lost among all the pomp and pageantry - among all the rightful fun and joy.

Let's use this visit, this message, as a reminder. That as we move forward as a city, we have to move forward together - with immigrants, with the impoverished, with the homeless, with the anonymous, and all the faces that pass by unnoticed.

Or else we will never be a city transformed.

What are we going to do, Philly?

mnewall@phillynews.com

215-854-2759

@MikeNewall