Our Gospel today is one of the foundational texts of Jesus’ establishment of the Papacy. What is the purpose of the Papacy? I’d like to offer you the definition given by a Lutheran. I was assisting at the marriage of a Catholic bride and a Lutheran groom. The groom’s father- himself a Lutheran- came up to me at the reception and said: “You Catholics really got it figured out. That Papacy thing is pretty good, it keeps you all organized and together.”
The Papacy does keep us organized and together. The Papacy keeps us focused on Jesus Christ in the midst of our own world of distraction, sin and sorrow. In this sense, the Papacy is true to its roots. What does Peter do today? He is receptive to the promptings of the Father and confesses that Jesus is the Christ. What does the Successor of Peter do today? He tells us to be receptive to the promptings of the Father and to confess that Jesus is the Christ.
Earlier today, while we were all sleeping, Pope Benedict XVI was preaching Mass to almost 2 million of his closest friends. In that Mass with our same readings, Pope Benedict says that Jesus’ question is for us as much as it is for Peter:
“Faith starts with God, who opens his heart to us and invites us to share in his own divine life. Faith does not simply provide information about who Christ is; rather, it entails a personal relationship with Christ, a surrender of our whole person, with all our understanding, will and feelings, to God’s self-revelation. So Jesus’ question: “But who do you say that I am?”, is ultimately a challenge to the disciples to make a personal decision in his regard. Faith in Christ and discipleship are strictly interconnected.”
Pope Benedict points us to an intimate encounter with Jesus as the foundation of all Christian faith. This relationship is possible only by God’s gift for which we must ask. Is your faith weak? Are you timid amongst your friends? Does God seem remote and foreign? Have you asked for deeper faith? Knowledge is necessary for faith—knowledge frames and guides every human relationship but every human relationship is more than knowledge.
Faith begins with a leap, a plunge into the unknown known. We know Jesus, but not fully. We can only know Jesus when we dive into that relationship. Pope Benedict encourages us: “Respond to him with generosity and courage, as befits young hearts like your own. Say to him: “Jesus, I know that you are the Son of God, who have given your life for me. I want to follow you faithfully and to be led by your word. You know me and you love me. I place my trust in you and I put my whole life into your hands. I want you to be the power that strengthens me and the joy which never leaves me”.”
Is it a risk? Yes! Do we know everything about this Jesus? Does it always seem like God is doing what we expect or what makes sense in our estimation of the world? No! And that is why it is faith. Reasonable faith but still faith. When Pope Benedict arrived in Spain he encouraged all of us to “not be ashamed of the Lord.” In these words and these actions, Pope Benedict continues to live out the life of Peter, keeping us organized around and firm within our confession of Jesus.
Pope Benedict's Arrival Address to Madrid
Pope Benedict's Opening Message
Pope Benedict's Address to Young Professors
Pope Benedict's Mass with Young Seminarians
Pope Benedict's Saturday Vigil Address
Pope Benedict's Sunday Mass Homily
Summary of WYD
Cross posted at piusxiinewman.