WEDNESDAY HOMILY: Pope's Message for Lent Helps us Through Papal Transition
Pope Benedict XVI's Message for Lent is what will help us go through a papal transition of saying farewell to his holiness and saying hello to his successor: "Believing in Charity Calls Forth Charity."
HYTHE, KENT, UK (Catholic Online) - One fine morning ten years ago in St Peter's square in the Vatican I saw a man in a black cassock walk across the square. He had white hair and the build of a famous cardinal I knew. "That can't be. It is!" I walked up to him and asked him, "Are you Cardinal Ratzinger?" With a very warm smile he said, "Yes I am!"
Any intelligent premeditated question I had prepared for that moment went out of my mind and I felt like a total idiot staring in face of one of the brightest theological minds of third millennium.
He must have seen my awkwardness because he joked about how young I was when he visited my hometown of St Paul, Minnesota.
I like many have been touched by this gentle soul, this humble worker in the Lord's vineyard, this utterly amazing Pope.
For Lent, God is taking my Pope away.
In the middle of Lent I am getting a new Pope.
Believing in charity calls forth charity.
This is the Lenten message my Pope has asked me to think about, the Lenten interior and spiritual plan for the whole Church.
I believe in God. I believe God. I believe God's plan is to bring about the maximum charity in my soul and the souls of all the faithful. I believe God's plan for me to believe in charity and thus to bring it about is to not be shaken by receiving a new Pope in Lent.
As I am grateful for the gifts and blessings of Pope Benedict XVI, the awesome spiritual bombs the B16 has dropped and the explosive ripples of grace have blessed this generation, I am also truly grateful, sincerely and totally thankful IN ADVANCE for the next Pope.
I don't know who it will be, but I know that God is good and that he is leading the Church. He is the unseen head of the Church and that his goodness will demand an amazing Pope for our times.
Of course, the traditional practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that we hear about in the Gospel today, Ash Wednesday, are very important to help us all believe in charity so to call it forth.
These are not just traditional forms of Lenten penance, but three gifts which so coherently and perfectly respond to the three wounds that we have.
Sin has caused a treble wound of a break in the relationship between God, others, and ourselves. Prayer mends the relationship with God; almsgiving the relationship with others; fasting with our own being, especially our flesh.
In this sense the Gospel for Ash Wednesday is perfect for every year because it is the unchanging spiritual program for every Lent.
We won't ever change out of the ways that we are broken or the ways in which we personally and collectively need to repent. However, every year the Holy Spirit asks of us something new. The Lenten message of the Holy Father is always the place to look for what is unique to this year's Lent. So - the Holy Father has given us a spiritual program of papal transition.
I suggest we follow it.
These are the two things that will bring us through Lent this year from the Holy Father's message: faith and charity. This Pope has been the Pontiff of faith, hope, and charity, as he has written a major encyclical about each of the theological virtues.
Here are the Holy Father's words for us this Lent about faith and charity:
"The relationship between these two virtues resembles that between the two fundamental sacraments of the Church: Baptism and Eucharist. Baptism (sacramentum fidei) precedes the Eucharist (sacramentum caritatis), but is ordered to it, the Eucharist being the fullness of the Christian journey. In a similar way, faith precedes charity, but faith is genuine only if crowned by charity. Everything begins from the humble acceptance of faith ("knowing that one is loved by God"), but has to arrive at the truth of charity ("knowing how to love God and neighbor"), which remains for ever, as the fulfillment of all the virtues (cf. 1 Cor 13:13).
"Dear brothers and sisters, in this season of Lent, as we prepare to celebrate the event of the Cross and Resurrection - in which the love of God redeemed the world and shone its light upon history - I express my wish that all of you may spend this precious time rekindling your faith in Jesus Christ, so as to enter with him into the dynamic of love for the Father and for every brother and sister that we encounter in our lives. For this intention, I raise my prayer to God, and I invoke the Lord's blessing upon each individual and upon every community!"
Father Samuel Medley, SOLT, is a priest of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, and is currently based in Hythe, Kent, United Kingdom. He is a speaks to groups around the world on Blessed Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body. Visit his homily blog http://medleyminute.blogspot.com or his blog on sexual ethics http://loveandresponsibility.org
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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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