Thursday, March 14, 2013

Discipleship with the Cross

"When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, 
and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord." 
Pope Francis

Isn't it so true that many, if not all of us, want to go about life without the Cross! After all, Jesus is Risen! Amen, right? Yes, indeed He is Risen. Nevertheless, we must not forget that the Resurrection is only part of the story. Yes, it is essential and the culminating moment. Yet, it remains incomplete without the other elements of the Paschal Mystery, without the Suffering and Death. We have reflected with the help of the Gospels, a major part of Jesus' suffering was the Cross. It is through the Cross that His death came to pass. Instead of abandoning the Cross, Jesus chose to transform it and give to it a whole new meaning. His embrace and death on the Cross brought about redemption and the forgiveness of our sins. Something we could never do on our own nor something we could have ever earned.

So it is in our gratitude we make the choice to live as disciples. To live as His disciples is not to pick and choose what is convenient nor to run away from the Cross because Jesus embraced it for us! Jesus never told his disciples He would carry the Cross so that they need not. Quite the opposite, Jesus commanded his disciples to take up their cross. "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his Cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23). Jesus challenges you and me, his disciples to take up our cross daily. It is not easy to take up the cross daily. In so attempting we must not reduce the Cross to one of our choosing nor a Cross we think fits us best.  No, this is not the answer. As disciples we take up the Cross that is given to us. Just like Jesus who was given His Cross.

Be Not Afraid. The Good Shepherd does not abandon His sheep. It is Jesus who helps us to embrace it just as did He. It is Jesus who helps us to carry it when it gets heavy and we want to let it go. It is Jesus who gives new meaning in the suffering endured while with the Cross. It is Jesus who gives us new life in the pain.

One day each of us will stand before God. What Cross will we place before God? Will we even have a Cross to present? Until that day, Jesus commands us to follow His example. And along the way Jesus gives us gifts. Those gifts come only when we embrace the Cross. His gifts are glimpses of new life that come to us through those mini paschal mystery moments in our lives. Those glimpses are when we embrace the Cross, when we find meaning in the suffering, and when we allow "mini deaths" to occur now so as to better equip us and prepare us for the final death, our exit from this world into the next.

Until then, keep taking up your Cross, keep walking, keep searching for meaning in the suffering and pain, and keep believing that Jesus will give you glimpses of new life!

Habemus Papam

March 13, 2013 was the second day of the conclave to elect the successor of Benedict XVI. Each vote brings with it, anticipation and excitement, but also comes the slight possibility of disappointment. At least many felt that disappointment Wednesday morning when black smoke rose once again from the Sistine Chapel after another round of voting that did not bring about an election. I arrived just after the vote because of my morning classes, so although I was disappointed for not being present to see the smoke, a side of me was elated this time because it meant I did not miss the moment we all wait to see.

The world waited for the white smoke and the bells to ring. While the world waited through television, radio and internet, those of us blessed to be in Rome waited under the stormy clouds and wet weather. Even though it was not ideal waiting weather, I didn't hear anyone around me complain. Sure we all wanted it to happen sooner than later, but the electricity of being with thousands in St. Peter's Square was enough to keep us warm and help us not to mind the less than ideal weather.

5:30pm Rome time came and went with no white smoke. This meant all of us gathered would have to wait until at least 7:30pm to see if the Church would be given a new successor of Peter. It was amazing just how many more people filled the square. We were either in for a major disappointment or a grand celebration. Once the clock turned 7:00pm, the people were waiting and hoping to see what was about to emerge from the chimney installed at the Sistine Chapel.

Could it be? Is it black or is it white? White, white, it is white! Habemus Papam! We have a Pope! The crowds gathered in St. Peter's square erupted with cheers, smiles, and elation. What an honor to be present in the midst of this celebration! What a great moment to be a Catholic! Probably only something a Catholic could fully understand.  For to us the Pope is more than just a man. The Pope represents Christ to His Church. The Pope serves as the Vicar of Christ on earth fulfilling the teaching of the Lord that He would never leave us as orphans or without a Shepherd for His sheep.

It wasn't until one hour later the world would be introduced to the New Pope. Who will it be? What name will he have chosen? These are the thoughts that go through the minds of all waiting with anticipation.

It was then as the curtains were opened and the Cardinal announced, "Habemus Papam" that the world would be introduced to His Holiness, Pope Francis!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Papal Conclave Day 1

I never it my wildest dreams would ever have imagined that I would one day be a priest called to study in Rome, to be present during a Papal resignation, the first in 600 years, and to be awaiting the election of his successor with the Papal Conclave! Believe it or not, here it is! I have been blessed in so many ways. One thing I learned a while back is that when you put your faith in the Lord and follow Him, you will be taken on a wild ride. That ride, as many of you know, has its highs and lows. Right now in March of 2013, I am on one of those highs. The world has turned its attention to Rome and is tuned into the Papal Conclave. Day 1 produced only black smoke and thus there is no new pope. We all pray and wait. Let us stay tuned.