Vatican City — If you were anywhere near St. Peter’s last night, you were stuck in traffic, or already unable to go down most streets even on foot without a good explanation.
And early this morning, Romans made use of free bus and train service in honor of the new pope to celebrate his installation Mass with young and old, religious and consecrated, members of lay movements, pilgrims, media, and diplomats, among others.
(Via my iPad.)
On the feast of St. Joseph — whom the previous pope was named after, as his successor noted with gratitude — Pope Francis talked about stewardship, the protection of the gifts God gives us. He talked about the papacy, too, in these terms:
Today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power. Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!
In case you haven’t noticed already, this pontiff repeats that which he wants to drive home. On Sunday, the message repeated was about never tiring of asking God’s forgiveness. Today, it was about tender, loving, stewardship.
The crowd was something like exuberant today at the Mass, delighted to greet the new pope as he traveled throughout St. Peter’s Square. I ran into the American congressional delegation, in a rush to get back for votes. New Jersey’s Chris Smith captured what seems to have people so enthused: “Holy, wise, empathetic and humble, Pope Francis radiates Christ to a world absolutely yearning for truth, clarity, mercy and higher meaning.”
He’ll stop and bless the sick. He will get out and kiss babies. And he will repeat himself. And the world might just pay attention. Even the media sure have over this last week.#more#
Pope Francis offered a little primer on being a man of God, following the model of St. Joseph:
How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.
How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own. This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading. God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!
A man who didn’t plan on staying in Rome after the conclave provides an unfolding lesson in responding to God’s call.