It's the Celtic word for "soul friend" and this is the place to talk about Roman Catholicism, Celtic Spirituality, Tolkien, Lewis, Chesterton and other great literature, as well as anything else that enriches the human spirit and brings one closer to God.
Gotta love the Pope and the million young people that were at the prayer vigil in Madrid tonight. First it was 104 degrees. Then the thunderstorm came....and then....Benediction--a million people silent before the Blessed Sacrament. Very moving!
A. In my twenty-seven years of priesthood, in teaching both the young and adults, I have found many people holding the opinion that it does not matter what religion they are so long as they love God. I have spent much of my priesthood trying to change that notion for religion is how we learn to love God, and what religion we belong to is important. I have always looked with disdain upon the argument that "I happen to be Catholic because I was born Catholic," or, "I happen to be Lutheran because I was born Lutheran." To me, a person should espouse a certain faith because it is the clearest way to the Truth for him or her.
B. Therefore, anyone who is Jewish and does not think it is the clearest way to God should not be Jewish; anyone who is Methodist and does not think Methodism is the clearest form of Christianity is guilty of mediocrity. And any Catholic who believes that his or her Catholicism is not the truest or clearest form of Christianity is clearly a person who has not thought in depth about what it means to be a committed Christian, to hold strongly the ideals and teachings of the faith. A person should belong to a particular faith because he or she knows it is the best way for them to reach salvation.
C. Now why have I said all this? Because I want to tell you just a little bit about why I am Catholic, because I want you to reflect on why you are Catholic, or if you are visiting us today from another Church, why your are a Protestant, and maybe together we can leave here today thinking a lot more deeply about why we are what we are and what our faith means.
D. I am Catholic because of this Gospel. The strength of our Catholic faith is embodied in the statement of Christ: You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church and the jaws of death shall not prevail against it. I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; whatever you declare bound on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you declare loosed on earth shall be held loosed in heaven. Pretty powerful words, words that tell me that the faith in which I have been baptized traces itself all the way back to the apostles through centuries of Popes and bishops–their successors. That’s important to me, because I need to be certain that the Bible I read, the Commandments I try to live by, the Church I belong to is in touch with God, with his Son Jesus Christ and with those first followers of Christ who saw him, touched him, walked with him after he had risen. I didn’t want to follow some faith that began 500, 300, 100 years ago; I needed a religion that went back to Christ unbroken over 2000 years. This statement of Christ’s convinced me.
II. Peter and the Papacy
A. From the beginning, Peter was the leader. From the beginning, those who were the successors of Peter were the leaders of the Church. Peter represents the strength and weakness of the Church. Let us not forget that when Peter did not walk in the way of Christ, he was terribly weak–3 times he denied Christ, his best friend, his Lord and God. The Church too has been weak at times through the ages; when its leaders and people have not walked with Christ, it too has sinned. But Peter was strong too; alone of all the Apostles he had the courage and wisdom and oneness of heart to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit telling him who Jesus was, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," said Peter. So Peter is both weak and strong; so why would Christ entrust to him the destiny of the Church? I’ll tell you why–acts of strength outweigh acts of weakness, acts of goodness are more powerful than acts of evil, and Peter’s confession of faith was far stronger than his betrayal, and, after the Resurrection, Jesus asked him three times to lead his Church.
B. When Peter proclaimed to Jesus, "You are the Christ," Jesus said those words we all just heard proclaimed in the Gospel. What he was really saying was this: "Well done my friend, you are one with me and because I am the cornerstone, because my heavenly Father is the Rock of Salvation, you too are Rock and so I call you Peter–the rock of the Church–so long as you walk with me, you cannot lead my people astray. Because you stand with me, my authority over all people is shared by you because you are united with me." By himself, Peter is weak; with Christ he and his successors are strong. Everyone knows that the Pope is the successor of Peter.
C. When we are united with Peter–what Peter stands for–we are united with Christ, we too share in Christ’s power and glory–we are one though many. This is our faith and ought to make us all proud. With all our faults, it’s great to be Catholic. To stand at Peter’s tomb in the Vatican, to see the Pope, to know that there are over a billion of us united to Christ–that’s awesome! We stand shoulder to shoulder with Christians throughout the ages who have been united with Rome for the past 2000 years, back to Peter, back to the apostles, back to Jesus Christ. This helps give stability to my faith, helps guarantee the truth of my faith, and I hope it helps yours too.
A. But with that surety, security and stability, comes an obligation. We do not walk alone if we are Catholic. We do not make up rules for ourselves; we do not have a smorgasbord religion, picking and choosing what we wish to believe in. We are Catholic and there are certain things we must believe. That’s hard for Americans to hear, because we are such individuals, but there is strength in unity. It’s hard to live as Jesus teaches, and I need others to help me do that. That’s why I love the Church–we are all in this together. That unity gives me strength and courage.
B. Next time you see the Pope, see the successor of Peter. Next time you see our Bishop, see a successor to the Apostles. And know that through the Pope and Bishops, the truthfulness of our faith is guaranteed. And next time you see the Pope, know that you see the Rock, and upon that Rock is built our Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. As the Millennium draws near, that comforts me. He is the visible sign of our Catholic unity throughout the world. Why am I Catholic? Because I see Peter and the Apostles every day. Sometimes weak, sometimes strong, that Pope and those Bishops tell me that as long as I hang close to the Church, I have the only truth that really matters, Jesus Christ who loves me, cares for me, saves me, and gives me life forever.
Time to start blogging again and what better way to do this than showing this great pic of young folks welcoming the Pope to World Youth Day in Madrid. Over a million young people said hello today. The Pope will be in Spain for four days. Lots of people carped and complained about this visit. Let's see what happens. Very uplifting so far.