Wednesday April 20, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 12:24-13:5a) Gospel (St. John 12:44-50)
In the first reading today, we hear about Paul and Barnabas being set aside for the work to which God had called them. The people had prayed and fasted, and the Holy Spirit had inspired them to be able to understand what it was that God was asking. We have watched something similar over the last couple of days as the cardinals of the world prayed and fasted and begged the Holy Spirit to guide them in choosing the man who would be the 265th successor of Saint Peter. They chose a truly extraordinary man, and we are greatly blessed to have Pope Benedict XVI to lead the Church through this next phase of time.
This is the man who, for over twenty years, was in charge of making sure that all of the doctrine of the Church was properly upheld, to make sure if someone was preaching heresy that they would be censured properly. This is a man who was in a unique position out of anybody in the world to know exactly what the difficulties and problems are that are facing the Church and the world. And the fact that in only four ballots the cardinals put him into the Chair of Peter sends quite an astounding message to the world. Number one, it shows the unity among the cardinals. Number two, it demonstrates clearly the direction that the cardinals want the Church to go: solid orthodoxy, clarity, to continue the work, the extraordinary work, that Pope John Paul has begun. Yet what is truly amazing, when you look at the entire college of cardinals, is that it may be that there was only one who was big enough and strong enough to be able to step outside of the shadow of John Paul II to be able to lead the Church in an entirely different manner and yet at the same time on a parallel track but not under the shadow that John Paul has left, which is an immense shadow.
So we are truly blessed as we see the work of the Lord continue. We need now simply to do exactly what each one of the other 114 cardinals did yesterday, that is, to vow our obedience, our loyalty, to the man that the Holy Spirit Himself has set aside. As Jesus Himself has told us that He does not speak on His own but only what the Father has told Him, so too, we have to understand the same to be true with regard to the teachings of the Holy See. They are not merely the teachings of a man, but they are the teachings that the Lord Himself desires in that they are guaranteed in any kind of official teaching to be free of error so that we will not be led into error. This is truly an extraordinary thing, a grace that the man in that office is given. We need to pray for this man.
For those of you who are considerably older than I, imagine at 78 years old suddenly being asked to take on literally the weight of the world. Now he carries on his shoulders the entire Church. He is the Pope not only for Catholics, but he is the Pope to the entire world. Consequently, he carries the weight of the world on his shoulders because there is only one vessel of salvation for this world, and that is the Holy Roman Catholic Church and Jesus Christ, Whom she preaches, and Whom through the Church continues to be with us in the Blessed Sacrament. So we need very, very seriously to pray that God will continue to guide His Church in the same kind of extraordinary manner that we have witnessed over the last 26 years, and even prior to that. Indeed, we are confident that He will because all we have to do is look at the individual He has chosen for that office.
There is great cause for rejoicing today. Yet this is the man who recognizes the difficulties in the Church. On Good Friday, when he wrote the meditations for the Stations of the Cross, he likened the Church to a ship that was taking on water, a ship that is listing badly. He understands better than anyone in the world what he has agreed to take on. And thanks be to God! for giving him the grace to be able to say “yes” to captain the ship even when he knows that it is in trouble. But we are guaranteed that the jaws of hell will never prevail against the Church. And God has chosen a man who is going to be able to put things right, to be able to continue in a different vein the work that our Holy Father Pope John Paul II has begun. In those areas where things need to be shorn up, I think we can be assured that they will be. And so a singular grace has been given now to the Church and to the world. On our part, we need to pray for him and continue to pray for the Church that in these difficult and turbulent times this truly extraordinary man who has been elevated to the chair of Peter will be protected, that he will be strengthened, so that he will guide the Church with clarity, with decisiveness, and according only to the way of the Lord.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.