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Pope Francis Calls the Church to Walk in the Presence of the Lord and Openly Profess Jesus Christ
By Deacon Keith Fournier
March 16th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online)- On Wednesday, March 13, 2013, a surprise of the Spirit stepped forward on that balcony in St. Peters Square and took the name of Francis, in honor of the little poor man of Assisi. The events of the day which followed only further demonstrated the mettle of the man who is our 266th Pope, the successor of the Apostle Peter. They also showed the appropriateness of the name which he selected.
What a treasure Pope Francis has already become in an age filled with self idolatry and politically twisted grandiosity among worldly leaders. He speaks simplicity with both his words and actions. For example, he could have ridden in the Vatican motorcade. There was a beautiful car awaiting him with a license plate from Vatican State - over which he now holds governing authority. It read "Stato Vaticano 1".
After all, some would say, such a car and a motorcade are meant to assure his safety and guarantee his punctual arrival at the next appointment. Those of us in the United States remember that just over one week ago the President of the United States rode in a twenty car motorcade to a Washington DC restaurant just down the street. He dined with two Republican senators and reminded them, as he often does all of us, of his concern for the poor.
Instead, the Pope named Francis chose to ride in a small bus back to his lodgings where he had stayed with his brother bishops during the conclave which elected him to be the successor of the Apostle Peter. The next morning he packed his own luggage, checked himself out - and paid his own bill. How very, very refreshing. Simplicity is countercultural in these days of arrogance and grandiosity.
The First thing Pope Francis did on Thursday morning was to make a visit to St Mary Major and pray for all of Rome. He told us all he was going to do so on that historic Wednesday night, after he asked us to pray over him while he bowed in sincere humility on the balcony overlooking St Peter's square. He grabbed the microphone, veering from the protocol, after those assisting him thought he was finished. He told us:
"Brothers and sisters, I leave you now. Thank you for your welcome. Pray for me and until we meet again. We will see each other soon. Tomorrow I wish to go and pray to Our Lady, that she may watch over all of Rome. Good night and sleep well!"
Of course, that promised visit to St Mary Major followed his cherished time of personal prayer. Reports from friends are that Francis spends two hours every morning in personal prayer. He does not make much of it - just as he does not make much of most things that he doeswithout calling attention to himself.
Things, such as choosing not to live in the residence designed for the bishop in Buenos Aires. Instead, living in a small apartment with an elderly priest where he takes delight in cooking the daily meals. Or, washing the feet of the sick and dying.
At that beautiful Church, Pope Francis placed flowers for the Virgin on the altar. He prayed in silence for a half an hour. He dedicated himself, the pontificate which has been entrusted to him and the whole Church, to Mary, the Mother of the Lord. Like many holy men and women from the earliest days of Christianity, he sees in the Mother of the Lord the model for all disciples. She is the woman whose humble "Yes" brought heaven to earth and earth to heaven.
His first homily on Thursday, at the Mass, celebrated in the Sistine Chapel with his brother Bishops, also reflected the spirit of this simple Pope. The Vatican Press Office provided a translation. It was extemporaneously delivered and came from the heart of the man whom the Lord will use in the months and years entrusted to him to rebuild His Church - so that she can evangelize the world of the Third Millennium which cries out for God's Mercy.
After you read this homily, I am sure you will agree with this deacon, we have been given another treasure from heaven. After the gifts of Blessed john Paul and His Holiness Benedict XVI, the Lord Jesus has shown his love for all of His Church - and His continuing merciful plan for the whole world. The power of the words in this homily are found in their evangelical simplicity, just like the one who delivered them.
Please, take the time to read his words, pray for him, pray for the Church, and rejoice:
In these three readings(Isaiah 2:2-5, 1 Peter 2:4-9, Matthew 16:13-19) I see that there is something in common: it is movement. In the first reading, movement is the journey [itself]; in the second reading, movement is in the up-building of the Church. In the third, in the Gospel, the movement is in [the act of] profession: walking, building, professing.
Walking: the House of Jacob. "O house of Jacob, Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord." This is the first thing God said to Abraham: "Walk in my presence and be blameless." Walking: our life is a journey and when we stop, there is something wrong. Walking always, in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live with that blamelessness, which God asks of Abraham in his promise.
Building: to build the Church. There is talk of stones: stones have consistency, but [the stones spoken of are] living stones, stones anointed by the Holy Spirit. Build up the Church, the Bride of Christ, the cornerstone of which is the same Lord. With [every] movement in our lives, let us build!
Third, professing: we can walk as much we want, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a pitiful NGO (Non - Governmental Organization) but not the Church, the Bride of Christ. When one does not walk, one stalls. When one does not built on solid rocks, what happens?
What happens is what happens to children on the beach when they make sandcastles: everything collapses, it is without consistency. When one does not profess Jesus Christ - I recall the phrase of Leon Bloy - "Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil." When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil.
Walking, building-constructing, professing: the thing, however, is not so easy, because in walking, in building, in professing, there are sometimes shake-ups - there are movements that are not part of the path: there are movements that pull us back.
This Gospel continues with a special situation. The same Peter who confessed Jesus Christ, says, "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." He says, "I'll follow you on other ways, that do not include the Cross."
I would like that all of us, after these days of grace, might have the courage - the courage - to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord: to build the Church on the Blood of the Lord, which is shed on the Cross, and to profess the one glory, Christ Crucified. In this way, the Church will go forward.
My hope for all of us is that the Holy Spirit, that the prayer of Our Lady, our Mother, might grant us this grace: to walk, to build, to profess Jesus Christ Crucified. So be it.
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