Thursday, February 28, 2013
Apostolica Sedes Vacans
We have never been here before. Not really. There are precedents of a sort for the the pope's stepping down from his office, but never like this. In that sense, everything that we do will be new, untried, one might even say precedent-setting, were it not that we cannot tell if such a thing as this will ever happen again.
Of course, in the most crucial sense, none of this matters. To be sure, what we do makes a difference in the life of the Church. We cannot, like Quietists, imagine that because God is provident and governs his Church and all creation, that what comes about does not come about, in part, because of the kinds of decisions we make and the kinds of things we do, indeed the kinds of people we choose and succeed in becoming. Even so, as the now emeritus Bishop of Rome, Benedict XVI, said to us only yesterday in St Peter's Square for his final public audience, "the boat of the Church is not mine, is not ours, but is his and he will not let it sink." The Church is now, as it was throughout the pontificate of Benedict XVI, as it has been since its foundation in Jesus Christ, not only in his earthly ministry, but even from before the dawn of time, under the watchful care of our Savior. It is he who has always governed us, by his Spirit that we have always been taught, and towards life with the eternal Father that we have always been led. This is true now, has ever been true, and will always be true.
Whatever God has in store for Benedict, whatever he has in store for his Church, we can face it with serene hope and full confidence. It is with this assurance that we can shed a tear if we will for Benedict's departure from a public life in the Church and in the world. It is not that we are left without a shepherd; our Shepherd is the same as ever. No, it is rather that our dear brother is passing away from our company, and in ordinary, earthly ways, will be beyond our reach. If we would draw near to him, and he to us, then we will do so in a way that is best both for him as for us, the way on which we began when we were brought to new life in Baptism, indeed when in God's hidden counsels we were written in the Book of Life. If we would be close to Benedict, then let us draw ever closer to Jesus Christ, and pray that Benedict do the same. It is now, as it ever was, in Jesus, and in Jesus alone, that we are closest to one another.
Laudetur Jesus Christus!