March 20, 2013
Daniel 3:14-95; John 8:31-42
It strikes me in John this evening that once again the people read Jesus literally and that once again Jesus he has to explain what he really means.
You are slaves, he says.
But we’re not slaves to anyone, the people reply. We’re free.
No, Jesus says. No. I mean you are slaves spiritually.
I’ve been so impressed and moved by our new Pope, Pope Francis, and one of the things that has struck me the most in the last few days was a short statement he made last Saturday, the 16th, to the people in the press who covered the conclave. It’s really a remarkable statement.
Here’s a part of it.
I would like, then, to thank you in a special way for the professional coverage which you provided during these days – you really worked, didn’t you? – when the eyes of the whole world, and not just those of Catholics, were turned to the Eternal City and particularly to this place which has as its heart the tomb of Saint Peter. Over the past few weeks, you have had to provide information about the Holy See and about the Church, her rituals and traditions, her faith and above all the role of the Pope and his ministry.
I am particularly grateful to those who viewed and presented these events of the Church’s history in a way which was sensitive to the right context in which they need to be read, namely that of faith.
Historical events almost always demand a nuanced interpretation which at times can also take into account the dimension of faith. Ecclesial events are certainly no more intricate than political or economic events! But they do have one particular underlying feature: they follow a pattern which does not readily correspond to the "worldly" categories which we are accustomed to use, and so it is not easy to interpret and communicate them to a wider and more varied public. The Church is certainly a human and historical institution with all that that entails, yet her nature is not essentially political but spiritual: the Church is the People of God, the Holy People of God making its way to encounter Jesus Christ. Only from this perspective can a satisfactory account be given of the Church’s life and activity.
Christ is the Church’s Pastor, but his presence in history passes through the freedom of human beings; from their midst one is chosen to serve as his Vicar, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Yet Christ remains the centre, not the Successor of Peter: Christ, Christ is the centre. Christ is the fundamental point of reference, the heart of the Church. Without him, Peter and the Church would not exist or have reason to exist.
All of this leads me to thank you once more for your work in these particularly demanding days, but also to ask you to try to understand more fully the true nature of the Church, as well as her journey in this world, with her virtues and her sins, and to know the spiritual concerns which guide her and are the most genuine way to understand her.
How simple and sincere. The Church is like the men in the furnace in the book of Daniel. There’s an angel there, too, there’s the spiritual dimension, and that’s the call for all of us: not to mistake the realm of Nebuchadnezzar for the realm of the one true King.
And here’s how Pope Francis gave his final blessing last Saturday, to this group of journalists from all of over the world. He blessed the people there in a way that both respected them and proclaimed, simply and joyously, the truth that sets us free.
I told you I was cordially imparting my blessing. Since many of you are not members of the Catholic Church, and others are not believers, I cordially give this blessing silently, to each of you, respecting the conscience of each, but in the knowledge that each of you is a child of God. May God bless you!
Again, how simple. How sincere. How marvelous.
This is our call: to silence. To respect. To blessing.