Monday, March 11, 2013

Mass for the Election of the Pope

While I was on my yearly retreat recently, at the Passionist Monastery of cloistered nuns in Whitesville, KY, the Holy Father retired.  So I celebrated a Mass one day for the pope and one the next day for the election of the pope.  For the latter, I used the following readings from the Common of Pastors:

First Reading: Ez 34:11-16 (no. 9) - “God will shepherd his sheep”
Responsorial psalm: Ps 23:1-6 (no. 2) – “The Lord is my shepherd”
Gospel Acclamation: Jn 10:14 (no. 5) – “I am the good shepherd, says the Lord, I know my sheep, and mine know me”
Gospel: Jn 21:15-17 (no. 12) - “Feed my sheep”

Here are the notes from my homily:

For the Gospel, I originally chose Mt 9:35-38 (no. 1) where the Lord has compassion on the Jews for they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.  But I decided last night to change the Gospel to Jn 21:15-17 (no. 12).  We may be harassed but we are not helpless.  We feel lost and without a shepherd because of the great love we have for Pope-emeritus Benedict but we are neither lost nor helpless.

The pope, our earthly, visible shepherd, is seen and heard and identified with more easily.  But this period between popes helps us to see our Lord as they chief shepherd of his flock, the Church.  He is the Good Shepherd, the Pastor Bonum; He is our shepherd-king – the New Joshua, the New David – the invisible but always vital shepherd and pastor of the Universal Church, as our readings so beautifully describe.

Nevertheless, our Lord desired that His Church always have a visible head, a Vicar, an Ambassador on earth sharing in His authority, the invisible Head.  There is no tension between His role and His delegation of St. Peter as Peter himself said in his First Letter to the Christians of Asia Minor: “And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4).  And so in our Gospel we see our Lord, by commanding Peter three times to “Feed my sheep,” entrusting to him the task of shepherding his entire flock.

Vatican I in 1870 solemnly defined what had already been believed; that in this episode Christ made Peter the visible head and visible chief pastor over the universal Church.  Out of our Lord’s great Love and Mercy for His flock he has continued to care for them through a visible head, one “Peter” after another, in unbroken succession to our current day and to the end of time.

Through the instrumentality of the College of Cardinals our Lord will again say to his chosen apostle in our own day, “Feed my lambs; Tend my sheep; Feed my sheep.” It is imperative that today and in the coming days, we say the traditional Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be for this chosen man, that we offer our Lenten prayers, works of charity, and sacrifices for him, so that he as Peter will be able to say – as Pope-emeritus Benedict, Bl. John Paul II, and so many saintly popes before him faithfully said - “Lord, you know that I love you” and “I will never fall away.”

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