View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

The pope's Calvary

Pope John Paul II appeared at a Vatican window at the end of Easter Sunday Mass.

Someone else read his Easter message for him.

Then the pope tried to speak.

According to the AP report, “After trying to utter the words of the blessing, the pope rested his hands on the lectern and the microphone was taken away. Soon after, he withdrew from the window.”

As I read this report, I recalled a passage in his 1996 book, Gift and Mystery.

He was talking about when he first went to university and chose to study Polish language and letters.

“Right from the very beginning of the first year, however, I found myself attracted to the study of the language itself.”

“The word, before it is ever spoken on the stage, is already present in human history as a fundamental dimension of man’s spiritual experience. Ultimately, the mystery of language brings us back to the inscrutable mystery of God himself.”

Part of the mystery of God is His suffering in the person of Jesus for all of us.

As the pope notes later in Gift and Mystery, Christ’s “sacrifice make righteous in the Father’s eyes all mankind.…”

The pope, as a priest, is “able to re-present every day, in persona Christi the redemptive sacrifice, the same sacrifice which Christ offered on the Cross.”

He is referring, of course, to the celebrating the Eucharist. But on a deeper level, the priest re-enacts Christ’s mission through his life and the crosses he bears through the sacrifices he makes to serve God and His people.

Celibacy, being constantly on call, sharing in the pains and sorrows of so many people, the personal and public repercussions of the priest sex scandals – these are just some of the ways priests suffer.

All of these are compounded for the pope in his role as the bishop of the entire church.

In recent years, this once robust and athletic pope has added physical infirmities to these sufferings. Unlike previous pontiffs, he has not hidden his physical sufferings.

But now, this poet, playwright and actor; this gifted communicator who is fluent in multiple languages; this teller of tales and singer of folk songs; this lover of words and the Word, is silent.

It is his own Calvary.

Indeed, in his annual message to priests earlier in March he clearly linked “my own sufferings with those of Christ.”

Now he suffers in silence.

Then again, maybe the image of him resting his hands on the lectern, the look of sorrow, frustration and pain on his face, communicates all that needs to be said.

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