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Sunday, November 21, 2010

What It Means to Serve

This is the first Papal Mass that I have missed during Pope Benedict's glorious reign.  It's a shame that EWTN does not see it fit to air a replay in lieu of its regular Sunday evening programming. It seems that the network chooses to air the replay at a time when most people are at Mass.  But, that is for another post. 

At least, insofar as the homily is concerned, I have the Google translate button to help me.  As usual, the homily is classic Benedict.  He begins by tying in the ministry of the Successor of St. Peter and of the cardinals with today's Gospel reading:

The first service of the Successor of Peter is that of faith. In the New Testament, Peter becomes the "rock" of the Church as the bearer of the creed: "we" of the Church begins with the name of the person who first professed faith in Christ, begins with his faith, a faith first and still bitter "too human", but then, after Easter, mature and capable of following Christ to the gift of self, the couple believe that Jesus is truly the King, it is precisely because it was on the Cross, and in that way gave life for sinners. In the Gospel we see that everyone is asking Jesus to come down from the cross. Laugh at him, but it's also a way to clear itself, as if to say: it is not our fault if you are there on the cross is your own fault, because if you were truly the Son of God, King of the Jews, you do not then you'd be there, but save you from going down this infamous gibbet. So, if you stay there, it means that you're wrong and we are right. The drama that takes place under the cross of Jesus is a universal drama, covering all men before God that is revealed for what it is, that is Love. In the crucified Jesus is the deity disfigured, stripped of all visible glory, but is present and real. Only faith can recognize: the faith of Mary, who unites in his heart, even this last piece of the mosaic of the life of her Son, she still does not see everything, but continues to trust in God, repeating once again with the same abandonment "Behold the handmaid of the Lord" (Lk 1:38). And then there's the faith of the good thief: a faith very rudimentary, but sufficient to ensure his salvation: "Today you will be with me in paradise." The decisive factor is that "with me." Yes, that's what saves him. Of course, the good thief on the cross at Jesus, but especially on the cross with Jesus And, unlike the criminal, and all others who mock them, does not ask Jesus to come down from the cross or to lower it. He says instead: "Remember me when you come into your kingdom." He sees him on the cross, disfigured, unrecognizable, yet relies on him like a king, indeed, as the King The Good Thief believes what is written on that board over the head of Jesus "The King of the Jews "We believe, and it is reliable. To this already, immediately, in the 'now' of God in heaven, because heaven is this: to be with Jesus, be with God
St. Peter wanted so very much to be with Jesus.  Last Thursday, one of the optional memorials was that of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Sts. Peter and Paul.  The Gospel reading gives the account of Jesus walking on the water, on his way to the boat to meet the Apostles.  After Peter realizes that it is, in fact, Jesus, he begins to walk on the water, at the Lord's invitation, to be with him.  However, Peter begins to doubt as the sea is lashing about him, and he starts to sink.  He pleads, "Lord, save me."  Jesus stretches out his hand and rescues Peter.  It is Peter's intense desire to want to be where Jesus is that, ironically enough, led to his denial of the Lord.  He followed Jesus as far as he could, but, when he was discovered, Peter did not have the courage to profess that he knew Jesus, that Jesus was his friend and Lord.  He ended up denying the very Lord with whom he wanted to be.  But, like the Good Thief, Peter received forgiveness.  He undid the damage that his triple denial had done by thrice professing his love to Jesus.  Jesus, for his part, reaffirms Peter's mission of feeding and tending the sheep of His Church.

It is precisely this mission of feeding and tending the sheep of Christ's church and how this relates to the Cross that Pope Benedict points out in his homily.  We cannot separate ourselves from the Cross of Christ.  Jesus continually challenges us to take up our crosses and follow him, and not separate ourselves from that cross.  If we separate ourselves from the Cross of Christ, we are then like the rulers, the soldiers and the first thief who want Jesus to come down from that cross.

Here then, dear brothers, it is clear the first and fundamental message that the Word of God says to us today: to me, the Successor of Peter, and to you, Cardinal. He calls us to be with Jesus, Mary, and do not ask him to come down from the cross, but stay there with him And that, as a result of our ministry, we do not only for ourselves but for the whole Church, throughout the God's people we know from the Gospels that the cross was the critical point of the faith of Simon Peter and the Apostles. It 'clear and could not be otherwise: they were men and thought, "according to men" could not tolerate the idea of a crucified Messiah. The "conversion" of Peter is fully realized when he stops wanting to "save" to accept Jesus and be saved by Him Surrender to want to save Jesus from the cross and agree to be rescued from his cross. "I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And once you have turned again, strengthen your brethren "(Lk 22:32), said the Lord. The ministry of Peter is all in his faith, a faith that acknowledges that Jesus suffered from the outset as genuine as a gift of our heavenly Father, but a faith that must pass through the scandal of the cross, to become authentic, truly "Christian "to become" rock "on which Jesus would build his Church. Participation in the Lordship of Christ occurs in practice only in sharing with its lower, with the Cross. Even my ministry, my dear brothers, and therefore yours too, it's all in the faith. Jesus can build on us as much as his Church is in us that true faith, Easter, faith that Jesus does not want to come down from the Cross, but relies on Him on the Cross. In this sense, the authentic site of the Vicar of Christ is the Cross, continuing in the obedience of the Cross.
Even those of us who are not cardinals are called to this fundamental principle of the cross.  St. Paul tells us that we should glory in the Cross of Christ.  He tells us that he wants to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.   The Cross is also the real seat of power, the real throne of our King.  In his meditations on the Way of the Cross, Pope Benedict wrote that Pilate was a prophet inspite of himself, when he inscribed "This is the King of the Jews" on the board above Jesus' head.  Despite his weakness and his motives, Pilate managed to get one thing right, the Kingship of Jesus.

There is also that element of marriage.  Marriage, one might ask, and celibacy, how does that compute?   When a prelate is elevated to the rank of cardinal, he receives a ring directly from the Holy Father.  Pope Benedict explains its significance:

It is a 'hard to this ministry, because it aligns with the thinking of men - that natural logic which also remains active even in ourselves. But this is and remains our primary service, the service of faith, which turns all his life: to believe that Jesus is God, who is the King precisely because it has reached that point, because he loved us to the end. And this paradoxical majesty, we must bear witness and proclaim it as did he, the King, that is following the same path and striving to take his own logic, the logic of humility and service, the grain of wheat that dies in order to bear fruit . The Pope and the Cardinals are called to be deeply united, first of all in this: all together, under the guidance of the Successor of Peter, must remain in the lordship of Christ, thinking and acting according to the logic of the Cross - and this is never easy or granted. This must be compact, and because we do not unite ourselves to an idea, a strategy, but we combine the love of Christ and his Holy Spirit. The effectiveness of our service to the Church, the Bride of Christ, is mainly dependent on this, from our fidelity to the divine kingship of Love crucified. For this reason, the ring that you today, seal your covenant marriage with the Church, depicts the image of the Crucifixion. And for the same reason, the color of your dress alludes to the blood, a symbol of life and love. The Blood of Christ, according to ancient iconography, Mary collects from the pierced side of the Son died on the cross, and the apostle John contemplates while flows along with the water, according to the prophetic Scriptures.
In this next paragraph, the Holy Father drives home the point of the wisdom of the Cross, using the Epistole of St. Paul to the Colossians, today's second reading, as a reference:

Dear Brothers, here comes our wisdom: sapientia Cross. Has reflected deeply on this St. Paul, the first to draw an organic Christian thought, centered just on the paradox of the Cross (cf. 1 Cor 1.18 to 25, 2.1 to 8). In the Epistle to the Colossians - of which today's liturgy proposes the Christological hymn - a consideration of Pauline, fertilized by the grace of the Spirit, already reached an impressive level of synthesis in expressing an authentic Christian understanding of God and the world of personal salvation and universal, and everything is centered on Christ, the Lord of hearts, history and the cosmos: "It 's like it to God who dwells within him all the fullness and through him and in him all things are reconciled , having pacified with the blood of his cross and things on earth, and those who are in heaven "(Col 1:19-20). This, dear brothers, we are called to proclaim to the world: Christ "the image of the invisible God," Christ "the firstborn of all creation" and "those who are raised from the dead", because - as the Apostle writes - "He is to have primacy over all things "(Col 1,15.18). The primacy of Peter and his Successors is totally at the service of this primacy of Jesus Christ, the Lord alone in the service of his Kingdom, that his lordship of love, and so it is spread, renews men and things, transforms the land and makes it sprout in peace and justice.

These words call to mind what Jesus told his Apostles in yesterday's Gospel account proclaimed at the public consistory:  whoever wants to be greatest in the Kingdom of heaven must be the servant of all.   This "Lordship of Love" that the Holy Father preaches finds its meaning in service for the Son of Man "came not to be served, but to serve."

The final paragraph brings everything home:

Within this design, which transcends history and at the same time, is revealed and realized in it, is placed the Church, "body" of which Christ is the "head" (cf. Col 1:18). In the Letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul speaks explicitly of the lordship of Christ and puts it in relation to the Church. He makes a prayer of praise to the "greatness of the power of God, who raised Christ and the Lord has made universal, and concludes:" All because he [God] has put his feet / and given to the Church as head over all things: / it is his body, / the fullness of him who is the perfect fulfillment of all things "(Eph 1:22-23). The very word "fullness", which belongs to Christ, Paul attributes it to the church here, participation: the body, in fact, part of the fullness of the Head. Here, venerable Brother Cardinals - and I say to all of you who share with us the grace to be Christians - that's what our joy to participate in the Church to the fullness of Christ through the obedience of the Cross, "partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light", have been "transferred" into the kingdom of the Son of God (cf. Col 1:12-13). For this we live in perpetual thanksgiving, and also through the testing is not less than the joy and peace that Christ left us as a deposit of his kingdom, which is already among us, that we look with faith and hope, and a foretaste charity. Amen.

And so it is.  There is unspeakable joy, Good News, even in the midst of suffering, even in the midst of Calvary.   Let us pray that we, too, may be brought to the fullness of Christ, glorying in His Cross, so that we may also hear the words that Jesus spoke to the Good Thief:  "This day, you will be with me in paradise."

Disclaimer:  I apologize for the formatting and translation issues.  I am still trying to get accustomed to my new laptop and the formatting is still quite rocky.

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