Saturday, February 22, 2014

"The Church needs us to be peacemakers" | Homily of Pope Francis for the Consistory

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI greets Pope Francis at the Consistory

“Jesus was walking ahead of them…” (Mk 10:32).

At this moment too, Jesus is walking ahead of us. He is always before us. He goes ahead of us and leads the way… This is the source of our confidence and our joy: to be his disciples, to remain with him, to walk behind him, to follow him…

When with the Cardinals we concelebrated the first Mass in the Sistine Chapel, the first word which the Lord proposed to us was “to walk”, to journey with him: to journey, and then to build and to profess.

Today this same word is repeated, but now as an action, an action of Jesus which is ongoing: “Jesus was walking…”. This is something striking about the Gospels: Jesus is often walking and he teaches his disciples along the way. This is important. Jesus did not come to teach a philosophy, an ideology… but rather “a way”, a journey to be undertaken with him, and we learn the way as we go, by walking. Yes, dear brothers, this is our joy: to walk with Jesus.

And this is not easy, or comfortable, because the way that Jesus chooses is the way of the Cross. As they journey together, he speaks to his disciples about what will happen in Jerusalem: he foretells his passion, death and resurrection. And they are “shocked” and “full of fear”. They were shocked, certainly, because for them going up to Jerusalem meant sharing in the triumph of the Messiah, in his victory – we see this in the request made by James and John. But they were also full of fear for what was about to happen to Jesus, and for what they themselves might have to endure.

Unlike the disciples in those days, we know that Jesus has won, and that we need not fear the Cross; indeed, the Cross is our hope. And yet, we are all too human, sinners, tempted to think as men do, not as God does.

And once we follow the thinking of the world, what happens? The Gospel tells us: “When the ten heard it, they beganto be indignant at James and John” (Mk 10:41). They were indignant. Whenever a worldly mentality predominates, the result is rivalry, jealousy, factions…

And so the word which Jesus speaks to us today is most salutary. It purifies us inwardly, it enlightens our consciences and helps us to unite ourselves fully with Jesus, and to do so together, at this time when the College of Cardinals is enlarged by the entrance of new members.

“And Jesus called them to himself…” (Mk 10:42). Here is the other action of Jesus. Along the way, he is aware that he needs to speak to the Twelve; he stops and calls them to himself. Brothers, let us allow Jesus to call us to himself! Let us be “con-voked” by him. And let us listen to him, with the joy that comes from receiving his word together, from letting ourselves be taught by that word and by the Holy Spirit, and to become ever more of one heart and soul, gathered around him.

And as we are thus “con-voked”, “called to himself” by our one Teacher, I will tell you what the Church needs: she needs you, your cooperation, and even more your communion, with me and among yourselves. The Church needs your courage, to proclaim the Gospel at all times, both in season and out of season, and to bear witness to the truth. The Church needs your prayer for the progress of Christ’s flock, that prayer – let us not forget this! – which, along with the proclamation of the Word, is the primary task of the Bishop. The Church needs your compassion, especially at this time of pain and suffering for so many countries throughout the world. Let us together express our spiritual closeness to the ecclesial communities and to all Christians suffering from discrimination and persecution. We must fight every form of discrimination! The Church needs our prayer for them, that they may be firm in faith and capable of responding to evil with good. And this prayer of ours extends to every man and women suffering injustice on account of their religious convictions.

The Church needs us also to be peacemakers, building peace by our words, our hopes and our prayers. Building peace! Being peacemakers! Let us therefore invoke peace and reconciliation for those peoples presently experiencing violence, exclusion and war.

Thank you, dear Brothers! Thank you! Let us walk together behind the Lord, and let us always be called together by him, in the midst of his faithful people, the holy People of God, holy Mother the Church. Thank you!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

"Our protest is over" | Pope Francis speaks to evangelical ministers

NOTE: This is one of the most incredible videos I have ever watched.  Anglican Bishop Tony Palmer tells a group of gathered evangelical pastors, "Our protest is over" and encourages a move towards unity in the Church. He also knows Pope Francis personally and came to this gathering with a video from the Pope to this group.  Something BIG is happening in our Church and we are blessed to be witnesses and participants.  This entire encounter is unthinkable even just a few years ago and now we have in this moment a group of evangelicals praying for the Pope!  The video is 45 minutes long but worth every minute of your time!   -- FT

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How Benedict XVI set the stage for Pope Francis | The Boston Globe

by John L Allen Jr. | The Boston Globe | February 10, 2014

Pope Francis is shaking things up in the Catholic Church to such an extent that many talk about a “Francis revolution.” Yet the single most revolutionary act committed by any pope in at least the last 600 years fell exactly one year ago tomorrow, and it wasn’t Francis who did it.

On Feb. 11, 2013, Pope Benedict XVI used a meeting of cardinals discussing new saints to deliver the stunning announcement that he planned to resign, effective 8 p.m. Rome time on Feb. 28. The news was a total surprise to everyone except a handful of papal intimates, and it set the stage for all the drama that’s followed.

One cardinal said afterward that he sat in the room well after the meeting broke up, still unable to comprehend what had just happened. He played Benedict’s Latin phrasing over and over again in his mind to be sure he’d understood.

Yes, a handful of popes had resigned before, most recently Gregory XII in 1415. The circumstances, however, were so wildly different as to make Benedict’s decision essentially unprecedented – a pope not facing foreign armies or internal schism who decided voluntarily to step aside, while continuing to live on Vatican grounds and pledging “unconditional obedience” to whoever might succeed him.

Francis wins plaudits for his humble nature, but Benedict’s act was arguably the zenith of papal humility. He’s gone from infallibility to near-invisibility, having been photographed just four times since the resignation, most recently at a Jan. 15 musical recital marking his brother’s 90th birthday.

In the immediate wake of the announcement, the game was afoot to identify the “real” reason Benedict quit. While the pontiff cited age and health, some observers wondered if he was so demoralized by the surreal Vatican leaks affair -- which ended in the arrest of his own butler as the mole -- that he couldn’t go on. Others speculated it was a nebulous “gay lobby” in the Vatican that had brought him down.

Most of that ferment circulated in the Italian press, where no conspiracy theory is ever too wild to get a hearing.In the immediate wake of the announcement, the game was afoot to identify the “real” reason Benedict quit. While the pontiff cited age and health, some observers wondered if he was so demoralized by the surreal Vatican leaks affair -- which ended in the arrest of his own butler as the mole -- that he couldn’t go on. Others speculated it was a nebulous “gay lobby” in the Vatican that had brought him down.

Whatever the reasons, we can see more clearly today how Benedict’s abdication prepared the way for the choice of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina as the new pope.

First, making resignation a live possibility effectively took age and health off the table as voting issues. In the past, conventional wisdom had been that the cardinals would prefer a candidate in his mid-to-late 60s. Older, and they run the risk of a short papacy or one immediately submerged into a health crisis; younger, and the danger is being stuck with one leader for too long.

Resignation provides an exit strategy, either way. If an older candidate gets sick, he can step aside and end the paralysis that comes with a weakened pope. A younger candidate can resign after the creative arc of his papacy is over, making way for a new direction.

Without such a release valve, the cardinals might have hesitated before electing a 76-year-old missing part of one lung, especially after choosing a 78-year-old, in Benedict, who occasionally seemed to lack the energy to get the Vatican under control.

Second, the fact that the cardinals were electing a pope after resignation rather than death changed the psychology of the process.

There was no outpouring of grief and tributes to the deceased pontiff, for the obvious reason that the pope wasn’t dead. There were no vast crowds of mourners in Rome, no appreciative obituaries in the global press, no emotional crescendo of a funeral Mass – none of the forces that can make it more difficult for cardinals to opt for a break with the papacy that has just ended. Eight years ago, the massive “funeral effect” surrounding the death of Pope John Paul II was a hugely important factor in shaping a continuity vote.

Resignation allowed the cardinals to take a more critical view, which helps explain why the 2013 conclave was the most anti-establishment papal election of the last 100 years. In this case the cardinals weren’t rejecting the teaching of Benedict XVI, which most of them admired, but patterns of business management in the Vatican they believed had become corrupt and dysfunctional.

They wanted change and Francis is delivering, perhaps to greater degree than some of them anticipated.

Finally, resignation encouraged the cardinals to roll the dice on a Latin American outsider with no Vatican experience because, frankly, some had in the back of their minds that if the new pope turned out to be a flop, they could come back a few years down the line and pick somebody else.

Catholics traditionally believe the Holy Spirit guides the process of picking a pope. On a more worldly level, however, the prime mover in the chain of events that led to Francis actually was Benedict XVI, the improbable revolutionary, who set the wheels in motion one year ago.

John L. Allen Jr. is a Globe associate editor, covering global Catholicism. His e-mail address is and his Twitter handle is @JohnLAllenJr.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Salt and light already

Three people were viewing the Grand Canyon one day.  One was an artist, one a priest and the third was a cowboy. As they stood on the edge of that massive abyss, each one responded to the wonder before them from their own particular perspective. The artist said, “What a beautiful scene to paint!”  The priest cried, “What a wonderful example of God’s handiwork!” Finally the cowboy sighed and said, “Heck of a place to lose a cow.”

Perspective matters.  In our Gospel today, Jesus proclaimed, “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world… Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”  We know this passage well, but I think that the most common perspective preached on it focuses on our failure along with an encouragement. In other words, we usually hear, “You are supposed to be the salt of the earth and light of the world; so get to it!!”  But, as I reflected on this Gospel this week in my own prayer, what kept coming to me were images of different people. These weren’t people who are failing at their mission as salt and light, but rather people shining brightly and bringing the full flavor of the Gospel to bear.

For example, I kept thinking about my grandfather and in particular the night that he returned to Heaven.  When he passed, of course, there was sadness, but it wasn’t the same kind of sadness that we often experience with a loss. And that was because we knew where he was going.  My grandfather lived his life as a deeply prayerful man, devoted to God; devoted to the Church; devoted to his wife and children; devoted to service.  He was a man that everyone knew and loved.  He always had a smile on his face, a joke to tell (that he never told correctly), a joyful song to sing (whether or not he could carry a note), and a kind word to share.  For me, he was a model of how a good, holy, Christian man lives his life.  And as I held his hand surrounded by family on the night he returned to Heaven there was in that room even a sense of joy because we knew he was receiving the reward that God had prepared for him from before time began.  For me, he was the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

And you know, as I speak of him, I’m sure you’re thinking of someone in your family or in your life who was also salt and light.  We all know people like my grandfather and all of them go to Heaven.  We can be tempted to think that holiness is something abstract or an ideal. But, I know that holiness is something real and tangible. We can be tempted to think that holiness is like caviar for the privileged few, like St. Francis, St. Thomas Aquinas or Blessed Pope John Paul the 2nd, soon to be saint.  But, I have come to see that holiness is as common as salt.  When Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world,” He didn’t say, “you will be salt and light”, He said you are! He was reminding us, His followers, of our call to live and spread His Gospel.  He was telling us what we can become through His grace.  But, I think He was also paying them and us a compliment.  Jesus was telling them that He already knew how good they were; how holy they were; and He is saying the same to us.

Any homilist today has a choice between a homily that is a pat on the back or a slap on the cheek.  I think today is a good day to offer ourselves a pat on the back. All of us here today are, to one degree or another, the salt of the earth and the light of the world already. If we look around, we just might realize that we meet holiness in each other every day.  We can see it in the devotion of those who come to daily Mass; those who have reared their families and taught them to share a devotion to God and His church.  We can see it in the innocent faces of the beautiful young people joyfully coming to church with a smile on their face.  We see this holiness in those who care for the needy of our community, whose ministry brings them to prisons and nursing homes and homeless shelters; we see this holiness in the face of the sick and the dying facing the greatest challenge of their lives with tremendous faith.  Holiness is all around us.  We are salt and light already.

This holiness is prayer-powered and grace-filled!  This much we all know, but we also need remember that this holiness reveals itself to us in human form.  It is the sanctity that nods to us on the street; that offers us a bowl of hot soup on a cold day or helps to shovel us out from yet another snow storm. It is in the face of the person who tells us not to worry or that they understand what we’re going through or that they will offer a prayer for us and our needs.  If our eyes our open, we can recognize the holiness that surrounds us at nearly every moment not floating high in the heavens out of reach, but right in front of us in the level that we live.

If there is a challenge to be found for us today as we hear these words about salt and light it is this – let us all pledge to expand the area of goodness and holiness in our lives.  If we are reaching out this far in goodness, let us agree to reach out that much farther.  Let us acknowledge today in this holy place for this Holy Mass that we are holy; let us remember all of the good and important ways that God’s holiness already shines on our faces and in our lives through our idealism, our commitment to faith and family and Church, through our devotion to prayer, our acceptance of the values of the Gospel, our prayerful celebration of the Holy Mass, our continual outreach to the homeless, the hungry, the sick and imprisoned. Be the change you want to see in the world; pay it forward; shine your light.

I think that Jesus wants us to know today that holiness is not only our destination it is our present reality – always in need of purification, of course; but we are already the salt of the earth and the light of the world and our good deeds give glory and praise to our Heavenly Father.  Well done, good and faithful servants!

May the Lord give you peace.

Changing the impossible

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