Reflections on the Church of Francis five years on from the renunciation of Benedict XVI.
From 11th February until 13th March in the Year of Our Lord 2013, a strong wind of the Spirit blew over the Church and the Earth.
“Brothers and sisters, good evening! […]“First of all, I would like to say a prayer for our Bishop Emeritus, Benedict XVI. Let us all pray together for him, that the Lord bless him and Our Lady protect him ( the prayers Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory to the Father were then recited). And now let us begin this journey, the Bishop and people.”
Thus, Francis, the new Bishop of Rome, received the complex legacy of Benedict XVI’s papacy
«Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered…»(Heb5,8). We may say that as Pontiff, Benedict XVI also learned obedience from the things which he suffered. For many things in life we can have masters of all kinds. How many masters there are for politics, science, literature! But when we enter into the shadow of suffering there is no master because all voices cease. It is then that we learn, in obedience, – and in particular five years ago in Poe Benedict’s obedience – what it means to serve and not to serve the Church, what it means to love and not use the Church. Only the experience of suffering, of betrayal, in a word, Gethsemane, leads us to listen humbly to the voice of a love which is stronger than death.
On that particular 11th February, “Professor Ratzinger” gave the Church and the World a great lesson; his last act of love as the Universal Pastor.
By his renunciation, Benedict XVI also provided the Spirit with the space in which to present us with the gift of Pope Francis, who has opened up a new era for the Church.
We know from the Gospels that Peter’s profession of faith, the rock upon which Jesus wanted to build His Church, was immediately “denied by the facts”. Jesus reproached Peter with harsh words because he did not accept the annunciation of the cross. At first, the Apostle was blessed by the Father but immediately afterwards he even became an obstacle, a stumbling block on the path towards Jesus. Peter and the others still had a long way to go, many things to understand.
The temptation is to follow a Christ without a cross but Jesus reminds us that His path is that of love and there is no real love without sacrificing oneself.
Pope Francis has taken Christ’s cross on his shoulders and takes it everywhere with him in the world, not as an ensign but indicating it as an instrument of salvation for all men.
The Pope is swimming against the current, he has an uphill battle. He tells us that only the love of Christ gives meaning and happiness to life. Every day, by his example he shows us that if we organize our life on love as Jesus did, our life will not be sterile but fertile. He tells us that in the Eucharist, Jesus loses himself in order to find all of us.
Notwithstanding his witness of a “Gospel without gloss” (or perhaps because of this), the opposition to the Church of Francis, the Church of the poor and the least, is very active, also on the web and on certain traditionalist blogs. Often in an inept way thus invalidatings it, today they accuse the Pope of having cast the Church into doctrinal, moral and pastoral confusion. Curiously, these blogs speak to each other, they quote one another, they gather mutual strength from creating groups which remain minority groups – although what they come out with is very serious. They pose almost as the new Fathers of the Church. In reality they weigh like dust particles on the scales. Their tones and their arguments discredit them, but they are responsible for generating doubt and confusion among the People, above all among simple people and the lowly. But as the Gospel says, scandals must occur so that the true believers are revealed.
Pope Francis who came “from the end of the world” has today turned his attention to the entire world, to Christians, to other religions and naturally to the entire Catholic Church, indicating the Gospel as the safe route for the Church’s ship to sail and giving witness to it in his dialogue with believers in other faiths as well as non-believers, focusing “on what unites rather than what divides”.