Friday was the second anniversary of the election by the College of cardinals of Jorge Bergoglio, the cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires, as the bishop of Rome. As bishop of a diocese held in high esteem from the time of the apostles because both Peter and Paul were martyred there for the faith, the one elected also holds a position of unifying authority over the entire church and carries a title that comes from the word for father – Pope.
The election of this “il Papa”, as the Italians say, came about as a result of his predecessor doing something that had not been done for centuries. He resigned the office. Pope Benedict judged that his physical and mental abilities were no longer able to meet adequately what the office demanded. The resignation proclaimed clearly that significant as this office in our church is, it is still an office. An office is a function constituted in a stable manner for a spiritual purpose. Being the Pope is not a vocation like baptism, marriage, priesthood or embracing the consecrated life.
The election of a bishop is not what we are used to in the Latin rite. Bishops of our dioceses are appointed by the Pope. This is not how it was always done down through history. At times the people of the diocese, lay and clergy decided which priest would be the bishop and then neighbouring bishops ordained him to lead that particular church. The election of the bishop of Rome follows this tradition.
What qualities interest the electors? The readings from mass today, year A of the fourth Sunday of Lent focus our attention on discernment and seeing. The choice of the youth David over more warrior-looking older brothers is a case in point. God looks at the heart. The man born blind to whom Jesus gives sight develops not only physical sight but inner sight, the sight we need to know who Jesus really is. Listen as the story unfolds and he debates robustly with those who oppose Jesus. He sees more and more clearly while they lose clarity as prejudice takes a stronger hold on them.
Archbishop Bergoglio took the name Francis invoking the intercession of the thirteenth century Saint from Assisi whose order, the Franciscans, still carry the name. The choice of the name opens a window as it were to some of the vision the Pope has of the office he is entrusted with and what he hopes for the church. It is a church strong in its love for and embrace of the poor. It is a field hospital for the wounded not a fortress or palace for the perfect. It opposes the forces of Satan, the author of lies, with the truth of Christ who wants all to be saved from deception about themselves and God. It challenges the short-sighted self-indulgent philosophies of the day with the wisdom born of seeing the world as Christ sees it.
In these last weeks of Lent, read again or for the first time, the Pope’s letter “The Joy of the Gospel” and take up the challenges it offers.
Fr Adrian Farrelly
|Mar 18, 2015||4th Sunday of Lent 15.03.2015||Listen||Download|