5th Sunday of Easter, Year A--2005
24 April 2005
I do not know about you, but I have been enjoying the recent – and positive – media attention our Church has been receiving. The nearly three years of constant coverage of our clergy sex abuse scandal has left me sad, discouraged and almost embarrassed to be a Catholic. Perhaps you have had similar reactions over the course of the past three years?
The media’s coverage of the death and funeral rites of John Paul II and the papal election this past week have served to be a refreshing break for us, and I have even felt (at times) a certain, humble pride in our Church as we came together as one church to celebrate the life of John Paul II, pay our respects, and bury him.
After John Paul II’s death, we watched as 115 Cardinal-electors from across the globe began to gather in Rome in order to respond to a pastoral need. The whole world seemed eager to witness how the ancient traditions of the church would be employed to secure its ongoing mission. Just as the Acts of the Apostles records the early church’s appointment of deacons to oversee the weekly distribution of food for those most in need, in a similar way, church-leaders gathered in Rome last week to elect a new universal shepherd as bishop for the people of Rome and as spiritual leader for Catholics throughout the world.
The election of Benedict XVI provoked a variety of reactions, some positive and some negative. There were Catholics who cheered at the election of our new pope because someone was elected who would finally reign in some of the more liberal-minded Catholics and enforce Church doctrine. There were others, however, who lamented because their hopes for a more progressive Church, faithful to the spirit of Vatican II, were dashed....Whatever our initial reactions to the election of the new pope were, I suspect that Benedict may prove to be a pleasant surprise for those who were disappointed with the papal election, and he may even prove not to be the sort of pope that those cheering at his election had expected. As a church, confident that we are in God’s hands, we must come together and give our new pope a chance to lead.
Jesus tells us in today’s gospel, “Do not let you hearts be troubled...have faith in me.” Jesus reminds us that what is most important in life – and the reason we come together each week to be nourished at the table of God’s word and the table of the Eucharist – is that come and follow him, who is our Way, our Truth and our very Life. We are not disciples of the pope, or the Archbishop, or even our pastor, Fr. Bob [you won’t tell him I said that, will you?]. It is their task as shepherds and ministers of the Church to help point the way to Jesus for us. Even Pope Benedict, being the good theologian he is, knows that following Jesus is what is most important for each of us and as a community of faith.
Our second reading, attributed to our first pope – St. Peter, instructs all of us to come to Jesus and asks us to be built into a spiritual house, the Church. We are told that each and every one of us represents the living stones which are carefully fit together and set around the cornerstone, who is Jesus. As members of this spiritual house, or the church, we are called to be “a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”....This was the call each of us received at our baptisms as we were each baptized into Christ so as to be Christ-s for the world. This is the priesthood of the baptized: to offer our lives as a sacrifice of love in the world as we make every effort to love our God and neighbor. Jesus communicates this to us in the words found in John’s gospel, “Amen, Amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do even greater ones than these.”
Today, we celebrate the baptisms of two new members of the Body of Christ. As we pray for the families of Dakota and Kyle Anthony and witness to the baptisms of their children, let this be a reminder of our own baptisms and the “priesthood of the baptized” that we all share, making us the “living stones” that comprise the Church.
May Christ grant each of us the faith, courage and strength we need to live out our baptismal priesthood by being a source of God’s love in the world. The spirituality needed for living out our common priesthood is best illustrated in the powerful words of St. Teresa of Avila, which I leave for your prayerful consideration. Following one of her spiritual visions, St. Teresa wrote this prayer: "Christ has no body now on earth but yours; no hands now but yours; no feet but yours; yours are the eyes through which Christ shines his compassion to the world; yours are the feet through which he is to go about doing good; yours are the hands through which he is to bless people now."- Rev. Mr. Marc Reeves, S.J.