Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Something New is Happening

In the Gospel of this radiant night of the Easter Vigil, we first meet the women who go the tomb of Jesus with spices to anoint his body (cf. Lk 24:1-3). They go to perform an act of compassion, a traditional act of affection and love for a dear departed person, just as we would. They had followed Jesus, they had listened to his words, they had felt understood by him in their dignity and they had accompanied him to the very end, to Calvary and to the moment when he was taken down from the cross. We can imagine their feelings as they make their way to the tomb: a certain sadness, sorrow that Jesus had left them, he had died, his life had come to an end. Life would now go on as before. Yet the women continued to feel love, the love for Jesus which now led them to his tomb.

But at this point, something completely new and unexpected happens, something which upsets their hearts and their plans, something which will upset their whole life: they see the stone removed from before the tomb, they draw near and they do not find the Lord’s body. It is an event which leaves them perplexed, hesitant, full of questions: “What happened?”, “What is the meaning of all this?” (cf. Lk 24:4).

Doesn’t the same thing also happen to us when something completely new occurs in our everyday life? We stop short, we don’t understand, we don’t know what to do. Newness often makes us fearful, including the newness which God brings us, the newness which God asks of us. We are like the Apostles in the Gospel: often we would prefer to hold on to our own security, to stand in front of a tomb, to think about someone who has died, someone who ultimately lives on only as a memory, like the great historical figures from the past. We are afraid of God’s surprises. Dear brothers and sisters, we are afraid of God’s surprises! He always surprises us! The Lord is like that.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives! Are we often weary, disheartened and sad? Do we feel weighed down by our sins? Do we think that we won’t be able to cope? Let us not close our hearts, let us not lose confidence, let us never give up: there are no situations which God cannot change, there is no sin which he cannot forgive if only we open ourselves to him.

Pope Francis, Easter Vigil Homily, March 31, 2013

Reflection – Happy Easter everyone! Don’t forget – it is still Easter Day, the great eight days that are one day only, that are the one great feast of Easter. Don’t fall into our terrible post-modern trap of moving on too quickly from things (Easter? That’s so four days ago!) – it is still Easter, just as much as it was on Easter Sunday.

And so we have this truly luminous homily by our new Pope Francis, and his first appearance on this blog. I have been thinking much about him and his papacy in this past week. Some of you may have heard that there has been some fuss about his decision to wash the feet of two women in the Holy Thursday Mass at the youth prison. Yes, the rubrics do call explicitly for men, but he is the Pope, the Supreme Legislator of the Church, and in his papal authority he is not bound by those rubrics. I am; you are; Fr. Experimento Liturgico  at St. Vatican III parish is, but the Pope is not. Them’s the Catholic rules, and there is really no great ambiguity about the matter. I do realize that there is deep confusion of thought on all sides (the Pope is going to ordain women! The Pope is destroying tradition!), and perhaps a pastoral need for clarification here, but the thing itself is not complicated.

Meanwhile, clearly Pope Francis is a new pope with a new approach to matters. His own life (let’s not forget the human being Jorge Bergoglio here) has taken a radical new turn that he could not have expected, and he is preaching to himself as much as to us. But there is a new tone, a new wind blowing in Rome, a new chapter in the life of the Church.

It is unsettling, but the point is, that’s a good thing. Not because Popes Benedict and John Paul and so forth were wrong about anything—I am the last blogger in the world who would take that position—but because God is always turning pages, starting new chapters, shaking things up.
It has always been so, from the time of the Abraham, through the era of the prophets, above all in Christ, and down through the history of the Church. God perpetually stirs up new things from the heart of the old, new responses, new attitudes, new movements of the Spirit. Our call is to have deep hearts of prayer and attentiveness, and deep trust and abandonment to God coming out of that prayer, and the deep charity of Christ that comes out of that trust and abandonment. If we focus on that, then this new Pope and his new ways will find a ready reception in the Church and the new evangelization will be re-vitalized and renewed in our lives.


  1. Christine SchintgenApril 3, 2013 at 3:02 PM

    Thanks, Fr. Dennis. That was a helpful post.

  2. I can understand that the symbolism of the Holy Thursday washing of the feet can have different aspects, and that the Pope need not be bound by the rubrics (or that he can change them if he wishes), but what about when Jorge Bergoglio dispensed with the rubrics as a cardinal too? (For example, according to a CBC photo caption from March 13, Cardinal Bergoglio washed the feet of male and female patients of the Hogar de Cristo shelter for drug users, during the 2008 Holy Thursday mass.)

    1. Well, that would have been problematic, I guess, unless he had received a dispensation from that rubric, as (apparently) Cardinal O'Malley of Boston did.
      But, no perfect candidates presented themselves at the Conclave this time, right? (Or... ever!) So I'm not inclined to worry too much over past failures by current popes, but rather the present actions and words of the man occupying the chair of Peter, and what those mean for the whole church at the present time.

    2. Father Denis,

      Well, I do not know very much about rubrics....and what little I know i fear I forget very easily, even when I try to remember.

      Once in St Louis I was invited on Holy Thursday to have my feet washed- but I somehow weaseled out of it...something about the soup kitchen... Or maybe, I did not feel worthy enough...

      This Francis becoming Pope, it feels a little like a miracle to me. Like God bent his ear very low to my lips. Ready eyes are getting to be a habit: saying Mass for the gardners, washing the feet of young juveniles, touching people and scaring the security people.

      One gets the sense that everyone is welcome in the church. A sense of conviviality , of inclusiveness.

      Dear brothers and sisters, sometimes he says sisters and brothers..and just hearing this soothes me, like a child greeting a long and lost father. Did you see his smile to the woman whose feet he washed? It was the nicest ever. It was as if he washed the feet of all women.

      I do not expect to always feel this way...but for now, I am just, well ...grateful.

    3. Well, that's great... but you do know that Pope Benedict did all of the above, too, eh? Just got ignored by the media... anyhow, glad you like him - so do I!

    4. Well, I have been told before that it is a bigger grace to believe without seeing. This usually doesn't work for me. Mercifully, Jesus meets us where we are and not where we should have been. Bless you.


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