Yesterday, Pope Francis I gave his first papal homily.
The Gospel on which he preached was the passage in Matthew when Jesus asks his disciples first, who people say he is and next, who they say he is. Peter answers, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Interestingly, what the Pope focused on in his homily was not Peter’s proclamation, but the dialogue that follows (that actually was not part of yesterday’s Gospel. When Jesus tells his disciples that he “must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly…and be killed,” Peter rebukes him, saying no such thing shall ever happen. Peter, in turn, is rebuked by Jesus, who tells his disciples that if they would follow him, they must take up his cross.
And it is that the our new pope focused on. After briefly speaking about the first two readings, he said:
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, 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.” When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord.
I think this is a message we need to hear over and over again: To be disciples, we must profess Christ. And, we cannot profess Christ without the cross.
You can read the entirety of the Pope’s homily here.
“And, we cannot profess Christ without the cross.”
Is the image and message not a ‘bitter pill’ for most to accept, let alone embrace?
To so many, too many, the ‘cross’ is a symbol of ultimate suffering. And in a world filled with so many who suffer, visibly and privately, the words spoken often convey a future filled with further toil, want, disappointment and suffering before a dawn anew. . .
Is it no wonder those who preach the ‘prosperity gospel’ are attracting many into their fold. Wednesday’s StarTribune had a picture of a prostrate, bare-foot pilgrim in St. Peter’s Square clad in a simple tunic. Such a public display. . .
Might Jesus’ message better to have been – come in haste, receive your blessing and return quickly in celebration for there is much to be proclaimed and work to be done.
As the ‘cross’ was Jesus’ to suffer, is it not Christ’s blessed gift to us? In all of our joy and radiance, is the ‘cross’ not our gift of new life, not a vision that portends trials to endure, but hope’s reality of the heart’s celebration?
If the ultimate ‘prize’ requires first death, death to self should be embraced and the celebration should begin in earnest. Honored guests are we – invited to His banquette table here on earth. We should arrive, in all of our splendor, approaching on His ‘Red Carpet’ –as magnates for Christ, as we are all called to be. . .
Certainly what I need to hear. Hopefully more of this to come——