With the constant media barrage against the pope and the Church, we seem to be living our own Via Crucis this year. And even though I am celebrating Easter at home in Boston, I’m attuned to what is happening in Rome.
Just before I left Rome last week, I offered the Vatican Radio commentary for Pope Benedict’s meeting with youth. Knowing the media barrage that was only just beginning, what struck me at the time was the pope’s evident and authentic delight in seeing so many young people (75,000 all told). The atmosphere was charged with the vibrancy and joy that is characteristic of World Youth Day, and despite all that weighs on the pope’s mind these days, nothing can detract from the reality that young people respond to the message of Christ, and to the pope.
As the week has progressed, I have followed the liturgical services — first Palm Sunday, then the mass in Suffrage for John Paul II, who died on April 2, 2005.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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Each liturgy has been a constant reminder of who we are and where we stand, and of the joy and hope we have in the resurrection.
It is a little sad to me that the tangibleness of the Christian mystery is drowned out in suburban America. Living in Rome means that you are surrounded — for better or worse — with reminders of faith. In this respect, it reminds me of the Holy Land. Not everyone is a Catholic, not everyone is practicing. But all are surrounded by reminders of God.
Today, in his homily at the Chrism Mass, the Holy Father said:
At the center of the Church’s worship is the notion of “sacrament”. This means that it is not primarily we who act, but God comes first to meet us through his action, he looks upon us and he leads us to himself.
Christ does not conquer through the sword, but through the Cross. He wins by conquering hatred. He wins through the force of his greater love. The Cross of Christ expresses his “no” to violence. And in this way, it is God’s victory sign, which announces Jesus’ new way. The one who suffered was stronger than the ones who exercised power. In his self-giving on the Cross, Christ conquered violence. As priests we are called, in fellowship with Jesus Christ, to be men of peace, we are called to oppose violence and to trust in the greater power of love.
And again, in the evening liturgy of the Last Supper:
Jesus’ prayer gives us the assurance that the preaching of the Apostles will never fail throughout history; that it will always awaken faith and gather men and women into unity – into a unity which becomes a testimony to the mission of Jesus Christ. But this prayer also challenges us to a constant examination of conscience. At this hour the Lord is asking us: are you living, through faith, in fellowship with me and thus in fellowship with God? Or are you rather living for yourself, and thus apart from faith? And are you not thus guilty of the inconsistency which obscures my mission in the world and prevents men and women from encountering God’s love?
He closed with a reminder to all of us that, as part of the Body of Christ, we too have a roll to play in bearing witness to Christ’s message of peace, hope, and love — especially now.
It was part of the historical Passion of Jesus, and remains part of his ongoing Passion throughout history, that he saw, and even now continues to see, all that threatens and destroys unity. As we meditate on the Passion of the Lord, let us also feel Jesus’ pain at the way that we contradict his prayer, that we resist his love, that we oppose the unity which should bear witness before the world to his mission.