Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sermon Notes: Pope Francis: Who do you say that I am?

Reflection for 6:30 am Mass
St. Vincent de Paul Parish
Thurs. Week VI of Ord. Time
Feb. 20, 2014

Turning Point: “The Turning Point:” one of those high powered theological terms associated with this passage we hear today from Mark’s Gospel. Indeed, we hear today the very middle or fulcrum of Mark’s Gospel, the confession of St. Peter that Jesus is the Christ. This confession marks (pun intended) the climax of Jesus’ teaching up to this point. He has finally convinced the disciples that He is the Christ, and they have professed it through Peter. Now through the end of the Gospel, Jesus will proceed as He does so abruptly here to teach them what this means: the Cross.


Peter’s Confession: And it should not be lost on us that it is Peter who makes this confession, Peter who properly identifies and confesses who Jesus our Lord and soon to be Savior is. In turn as we hear in Matthew’s Gospel, Peter receives the keys to the kingdom and is made that rock upon which the Church is founded, the Pope. Important because it is the Pope to whom the special charism of infallibility rests, that is, the guarantee by the work of the Holy Spirit that the Church in her teaching (as articulated and proclaimed by the Roman Pontiff) will not err in matters of faith and morals. This charism of infallibility is, simply put, the Pope’s duty by the Holy Spirit to identify the Christ, as Peter does in today’s Gospel. In other words, look at the various opinions and teachings, and declare the truth. Thus in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus replies: "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (16:17).

The Pope: This is the Pope: the Vicar of Christ to whom is entrusted the sanctification and governance of the Church, and the proclamation and protection of the Gospel. Yet who do you say that he is? I challenge you to pose this same question but in regards to the Holy Father, for there are many many opinions out there. To some he is a sort of John the Baptist: a voice crying out that the world might repent of its mistreatment of the poor and the marginalized in society. To others he is Elijah: a great prophet and wonder-worker who continually performs signs and miracles. If only we knew what he was going to do next! To others just one of the prophets: TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year. 

Your Confession: Certainly he is in many ways all of those things and in addition a loving pastor, faith filled man…the titles could go on. But do we see him for who he really is: the Holy Father and Supreme Pontiff, the Pope? One could say that Pope Francis isn't big on such titles and this would most true. I remember that fate filled night when he did not mention once that he was the new Pope. And to this neither was Jesus, as we hear today: “he warned them not to tell anyone about him.” Yet, like Jesus, Pope Francis has not denied these titles. In many ways, it is our job to confess the identity of the Pope: that he is head of the Roman Catholic Church and speaks on behalf of Christ. He knows all too well how much humility is needed in order to catch the attention of the world. And he is doing just that. But we have to be the ones who, as the crowds disperse after the encounter, explain to them why, who, and what just happened. He is our Pope, speaking on behalf of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, and doing a beautiful job. In filial devotion, let us help others see who he truly is. 


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