Thursday, April 25, 2013

Jesus Christ is the sole criterion

I am quite often moved by words. Yes, moved. If words don’t move us, that is, spur us to do something, especially words that are preached, then they remain mere words. As Don Giussani once observed, for too many Christians, religion is only words. When religion is reduced to words, maybe nice words beautifully strung together, or even heartfelt words, but words nonetheless, it quickly becomes pointless and sterile.

This morning I checked, as I do each day, the homepage of The Catholic Herald. The Herald is a national Catholic newspaper in Great Britain, similar to the National Catholic Register in this country. As I perused the content my eye quickly caught this headline “Bishops must act like disciples and not ‘mere managers.’” I quickly discovered that the article was the text of a homily delivered by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, at a Sunday Mass the week before last (Third Sunday of Easter) with the Bishops of England and Wales, who were visiting Rome on the occasion of the ad limina visit, which occurs every five years.

The title immediately reminded me of something Pope Francis said in his homily the following Sunday, known as Good Shepherd Sunday, during a Mass at which he ordained ten new priests: “You are pastors, not functionaries. Be mediators, not intermediaries.”

In his homily, Cardinal Ouellet also relayed how the Holy Father “makes us feel uncomfortable.” Here, I think, he is talking as a bishop, a cardinal, a prefect of curial a congregation, to his fellow bishops because I am quite certain that Pope Francis does not make the rest of the faithful feel uncomfortable at all. He goes on to tell the bishops what he thinks is the source of this hierarchical discomfort: “Pope Francis’ sole criterion is Jesus Christ. The Holy Father does not get distracted by peripheral considerations. He goes to the heart of things with simplicity and boldness.” Then, citing a passage from Pope Francis’ homily preached at the Missa Pro Ecclesia, he quotes the Pope as saying, “If we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord” and uses the quote Francis used from Léon Bloy in that same homily: “When we do not profess Jesus Christ, we profess the worldliness of the devil, a demonic worldliness.”

Speaking of the week they were spending together in Rome, Cardinal Ouellet told the bishops something that applies to all of us: “The Risen Lord is calling you to this shore because He knows that authentic interior renewal can only happen in the personal encounter with Him, not as an abstract deity, but in His risen flesh on the shore. And so He calls you.”

What is your answer?

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