Sunday, August 21, 2011

Christ's Divinity makes the difference!

By now you must have heard of the World Youth Day going on now in Madrid, Spain. And you must have heard of the harassment many WYD participants are receiving from protesters who do not welcome the Holy Father into their country. The alibi they use is the alleged expense the Spanish government incurred for the papal visit. But the true reason simply is the widespread anti-Catholic sentiment that afflicts not only Spain but almost all of Europe. The sentiments might be for a lot of reasons but basically it is because the Church presents a counter-culture to the prevailing secularism in Europe today. Plainly put, it is simply the gates of hell attempting to prevail upon the Church established by the Lord Jesus.

Why the hatred of the modern world for the papacy? I think that the issue at hand is more than just an identity crisis for the papacy. Rather, it is more of a crisis of identity for Christ. The gospel shows how the identity of Peter is highly dependent on the identity of the Lord Jesus. The Lord made the solemn declaration that Simon Peter is the Rock upon which He built his Church and to him the Lord entrusted the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven so much so that whatever Peter binds on earth is bound in heaven and whatever he loosens on earth is loosened in heaven. However, let us take note that the Lord’s solemn declaration about Peter’s identity was his response to Peter’s declaration about the identity of Jesus: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. It is important to keep this in mind lest we fall into the error of thinking that the pope has appropriated for himself dignity and power through unholy alliances with kings and emperors of old. In our times, many people see the pope as no more than a leader of a religious institution, no different from a CEO of any international corporation. This erroneous impression regarding the pope comes from a denial, or at least, an ignorance of who it is who declared: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And who was it who made such a pronouncement? It is Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God. He, the Son of the living God, is God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, consubstantial with the Father, begotten, not made. It is the Divinity of Jesus that makes all the difference. The Church is not an ordinary association of like minded people. It is a divinely instituted community of those redeemed by Jesus Christ – it is the family of God. The Pope is not a CEO appointed to such a position by a board of directors. The Pope is the Vicar of Christ, appointed by the Lord to shepherd his flock. Using the words of the Lord in the book of the prophet Isaiah: “I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over him your authority. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. I will place the key of the house of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut; when he shuts, no one shall open. I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family.”

Because the one who appointed the Pope as successor of St. Peter is the Son of God, who himself is God, we ought to honor and obey the Pope. In honoring the Pope, I honor the Son of God who appointed him. In obeying the Pope, I offer Christ the homage of the submission of my will to the Divine Will. If heaven obeys the Pope’s power to lose and to bind, how much more should we, humble earthly creatures that we are. Behind the Pope is the authority of God himself. This is the authority of Him whose judgments are inscrutable and whose ways are unsearchable. “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?...For from him and through him and for him all things are. To him be glory for ever. Amen.” Long live the Pope!

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