Tag Archives: US bishops

26th Sunday: A Pope Visits Us

Audio homily here:

I’m always surprised at the way our current Mass readings throw light on what’s happening now. Pope Francis is ending his visit to our country. He’s hard to miss, a genuine celebrity, tying up traffic in three major cities and drawing immense crowds and media coverage. If he were running in our presidential elections, he might get elected.

He’s a leader, no doubt. But look at the way leadership is described in today’s readings: a kind of leadership Francis exemplifies. Our reading from the Book of Numbers (Nm 11,25-29) says the Lord blesses Moses with power, but also takes “ some of the spirit that was on Moses and bestows it on the seventy elders.” Then, when two others, not of the seventy, seem to have that same spirit, some tell Moses to stop them. They don’t belong to our group.

But Moses wont stop them. Are you jealous? he asks. “Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!”

The gospel from Mark (Mk 9, 38-48) offers a similar situation. Some are exercising a power like Jesus and his followers try to stop them. Let them be, Jesus says, “Whoever is not against us is for us.” Whoever is working for the same good cause is working with us.

The lesson, of course, is that a real leader doesn’t want power for himself or herself. Power is meant to serve all. “Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!” Moses says. In his strong address to our Congress the other day, Francis called them to be real leaders and work for the common good. Work together, not in a spirit of partisanship, or for your own gain, but for the good of all and for the good of the world, he said. Don’t be afraid to face the big challenges before us.

Of course, we might stop there and say we need better leaders, better politicians; let’s pray for a good president and a good congress that can work together for the good of us all.

But our readings seem to suggest that power is not just in great leaders like Moses and Jesus. We all have power which we’re called to use for the common good. The same partisanship and selfishness, the same lack of vision we complain about in our leaders can also be present in us.

The pope addressed our bishops before he met with congress and he told them too to be good shepherds of the gifts of God. “It’s wrong,” he said to look the other way or to remain silent.” They need to face the many challenges before them.

That challenge is addressed to us too.

Addressing congress, the pope pointed to four Americans who worked for the common good: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. Only one of those was a politician, an elected leader. The rest were people who served society using their unique gifts.

So it was not just politicians in Congress or bishops or representatives of the nations at the UN the pope challenged these last few days. He was challenging all of us to face the world today, to confront the issues before us, to work together, to follow the Golden Rule. “Do onto others what you would have them do to you.” That’s what God wants us all to do.

Pope Francis and the US Bishops

In an extensive speech today to the bishops of the United States at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, Pope Francis asked them as good shepherds to face the challenging issues confronting us today.

“I encourage you, then, to confront the challenging issues of our time. Ever present within each of them is life as gift and responsibility. The future freedom and dignity of our societies depends on how we face these challenges.

The innocent victim of abortion, children who die of hunger or from bombings, immigrants who drown in the search for a better tomorrow, the elderly or the sick who are considered a burden, the victims of terrorism, wars, violence and drug trafficking, the environment devastated by man’s predatory relationship with nature – at stake in all of this is the gift of God, of which we are noble stewards but not masters. It is wrong, then, to look the other way or to remain silent. No less important is the Gospel of the Family, which in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia I will emphatically proclaim together with you and the entire Church.”

We will probably hear these issues brought up in his talks to Congress, the United Nations, and the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

Changes in the Liturgy

The American Catholic Church is gearing up for changes in the liturgy. There’s a site on the bishops’ web pages outlining the changes. The opening page captures some of my questions about the new changes, to be voted on by the bishops this November, submitted to Rome afterwards, and likely introduced in Advent of 2011.

“New Words: A Deeper Meaning but the Same Mass,” reads the heading announcing the changes: “Prayers for the observances of recently canonized saints, additional prefaces for the Eucharistic Prayers, additional Votive Masses and Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Intentions and some updated and revised rubrics (instructions) for the celebration of the Mass.”

“The English translation of the Roman Missal will also include updated translations of existing prayers, including some of the well–known responses and acclamations of the people.”

The last sentence announces the changes that will impact ordinary church-going Catholics most of all. I was thinking of recent complaints against drug companies for introducing new medicines and applications without proving they are better and more cost effective than previous ones. Will the new words lead us to a deeper meaning of the Mass? I’m not sure.

A picture on the site’s opening page shows the back rows of a congregation at church at Mass. From where the picture’s taken those back row Catholics can hardly see the altar in the distance. Is that going to be the experience of most ordinary people when the new words are introduced?

Looks like some dark clouds ahead.