Friday, March 15, 2013

First Papal Mass

  It was delivered in the Sistine Chapel on Thursday afternoon, March 14, as he celebrated Holy Mass for the first time as Pope and with the Cardinals who had elected Pope last evening. He did not use a prepared text for this simple and inspiring homily.

[The three readings of the Mass “pro Ecclesia," on which Pope Francis commented, were taken from the book of Isaiah (2:2-5), from the first letter of Peter (2:4-9), and from the Gospel according to Matthew (16:13-19)]

In these three readings I see that there is something in common: it is movement. In the first reading, movement in walking; in the second reading, movement in the building up of the Church; in the third, in the Gospel, movement in confession.

To walk, to build up, to confess.

To walk. “House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” This is the first thing that God said to Abraham: Walk in my presence and be without reproach. To walk: our life is a journey and when we stop it is no good. To walk always, in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live with that irreproachability which God asked of Abraham, in his promise.

To build up. To build up the Church. Stones are spoken of: the stones have substance; but living stones, stones anointed by the Holy Spirit. To build up the Church, the bride of Christ, on that cornerstone which is the Lord himself. This is another movement of our lives: to build up.

Third, to confess. We can walk as much as we wish, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, it is no good. We will become a humanitarian NGO, but not the Church, bride of the Lord.

When one does not walk, one halts. When one does not build on stone what happens? That happens which happens to children on the beach when they make sand castles, it all comes down, it is without substance. When one does not confess Jesus Christ, I am reminded of the expression of Léon Bloy: "He who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil.” When one does not confess Jesus Christ, one confesses the worldliness of the devil, the worldliness of the demon.

To walk, to build/construct, to confess. But the matter is not so easy, because in walking, in building, in confessing, at times there are shocks, there are movements that are not properly movements of the journey: they are movements that set us back.

This Gospel continues with a special situation. The same Peter who has confessed Jesus Christ says to him: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the cross. This has nothing to do with it. I will follow you with other possibilities, without the cross.

When we walk without the cross, when we build without the cross and when we confess Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord: we are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

I would like that everyone, after these days of grace, should have the courage, truly the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the cross of the Lord; to build up the Church upon the blood of the Lord that was shed upon the cross; and to confess the only glory: Christ crucified. And in this way the Church will move forward.

I hope for all of us that the Holy Spirit, through the prayer of the Virgin Mary, our Mother, may grant us this grace: to walk, to build up, to confess Jesus Christ crucified. So may it be.

The New Pope and Us:   
By Archbishop Jose H. Gomez

We are praying for the new Pope! 
As I write, the historic conclave of cardinals has just begun.

We are living in a moment like we read about in the Acts of the Apostles. I’ve been thinking a lot about the first Church Council, the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. At the end of the Council, the apostles announced, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us.” 
This is the beautiful mystery of what is going on right now in Rome.

Jesus promised his Spirit of truth to guide his Church. In this sacred conclave, the successors of the apostles will decide, with the Holy Spirit, to elect the man the Lord has chosen to be his Pope.

I am thinking also these days of Jesus’ words: “You are Peter! And on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” 

In the surprise of Pope Benedict XVI resigning, and with the excitement of the conclave, we can forget that we are in the middle of the Year of Faith. 

But in God’s loving plan, this year has become a great chance for us to grow in our faith in the Pope as the Vicar of Christ on earth.

We need this faith! It’s essential to our Catholic identity. Every Catholic should have great love for the Pope, no matter who the Pope is. 

St. Catherine of Siena used to call the Pope the “sweet Christ on earth.” We should have this same faith and warm affection.

The Pope is the “rock” that the Church stands on. Christ has given him responsibility for leading and feeding the flock of God. I think of those final words that Jesus spoke to Peter, on the seashore after the Resurrection: “Feed my sheep! … Follow me!” 

The Pope we are all looking for — the Pope that we know the Lord will provide us — will be a servant of salvation and a servant of God’s joy.

From Rome, the message of Jesus Christ goes out to all the ends of the earth. The Pope’s ministry is the source of divine blessing and healing in our world. 

Under the Pope’s authority, the Church has power — through her Sacraments — to sanctify and set free. To forgive our sins and to make us holy. Again I hear Jesus’ words to Peter: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 

Every Pope bears heavy burdens that we cannot know. St. Paul used to talk about “the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches.” This is the weight that every pastor and every bishop carries — a deep concern for the souls entrusted to his care. This burden weighs heaviest on the Pope, as head of the universal Church. 

So we should pray for the Pope’s intentions every day, and we should join our prayers to acts of atonement and self-sacrifice for him. 

Faith in the Pope also means growing every day in loyalty and obedience to his teaching authority. His words are wisdom for living. His words make the Gospel a message for today and a help for the challenges of living. 

In the run-up to the conclave, there has been a lot of talk about what the Church “needs” and what the Cardinals are “looking for” in a new Pope. This analysis has focused on important issues that remind us that the Church always needs purification and renewal. 

But in every time and in every age, what the Church needs most is holiness. What the Church needs most — and what God desires — is that you and I become saints. 

The Church will be renewed when you and I, and all our brothers and sisters are truly living our faith. Every day. With our whole hearts and minds and with all our strength. 

The Pope we are all looking for — the Pope that we know the Lord will provide us — will be a servant of salvation and a servant of God’s joy. 

This is also a task for each of us, as fellow followers of Christ. Not to do our will, not to pursue our own agendas. But to seek God’s will. 

With our new Pope, whoever he is, we are called to believe in Jesus and to let our ourselves be led by him. We are called to follow Jesus in the company of others, in the family of his Church. To be nourished by his Word and by his Body and Blood, and to every day try to be more like him. 

With our new Pope, we are called to share our faith and to build the Kingdom of God, with the patience and love of Christ — every day in every area of life. 

So let us pray for one another and for our Church. 

And let us ask the intercession of Mary our Mother and the Mother of the Church. May we all go to Jesus, closely united to the Pope, through Mary. 

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