I am certainly glad to wake up and to realize that this is now day two of the papacy of Benedict XVI and that his election hadn’t been a Dallas dream-sequence. I still feel like I am on a coffee IV and my cheeks are cramping up from smiling nonstop since white smoke first appeared. The last two nights I have hardly slept at all. Yesterday I woke up a 6 am to turn on the TV to see black smoke and thought it would be another long day of anticipation. I have been more excited then when I had first found out that I had made Chief while in the Navy. I just feel a joy that goes beyond myself. A joy for the whole Church. I am sure I would have felt pretty much the same no matter who ascended the chair of Peter, yet I do love he fact that it was Josef Ratzinger a man that I had already deeply respected and loved.
Now though we have to suffer through all the charges that will be leveled at him. They have and will repeat endlessly that he is a lightning rod. In a way that is true. A lighting rod gets struck by light since it is firmly anchored in the ground. Pope Benedict XVI is firmly anchored in the ground. He is firmly anchored in Christ and that as he said in his pre-conclave homily that the Church "must not be subject to the changing winds of ideological fashion." Our new Holy Father will also not be blown about by these ideological winds. It is only those who are not connected to the ground that are safe from lightning. Those that are ideologically free-floating will not be hit by light coming from Heaven.
There is also being repeated that this is a "transitioning papacy." Again they are right, yet not in the way that they meant it. The mission of the Church is to transition us to heaven. The Holy Father’s job as head of the Church is to help prepare the way and to lead the members of the Church towards their final transition. To remind us that we are but pilgrims and that we must work and be ready for what God has in store for us. ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God"
That he is a divisive figure and a hard liner. The reality of the charge is that truth does have edges and lines. G.K. Chesterton said "Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere." The truth does have hard lines and not some fuzzy boundaries imperceptible to the moral eye or whose outlines changes based on the moral eye of the beholder. That he is divisive is true in sense that truth is divisive. Our intellects our fallen and unfortunately there is not unanimity on what is the truth. Pontius Pilate is the patron saint of way too many people. Jesus said "I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." and "Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against his mother-in-law."
They have and will charge that he is against ecumenism and will move the Church backwards in relation to other churches. A charge that of course Protestant ministers who had worked with Cardinal Ratzinger will find funny. In his book "God and the World" he was asked about the patriarch Jacob who had more or less described the time when the Redeemer would come and whether the application of these and other prophesies were fabricated retrospectively in response to Jesus.
Now let’s take the prophet Isaiah. The original text in face reads "Drop down righteousness, O Heavens." Only after righteousness had come in the guise of a particular person did the Christians read this text with a personalized reference. Thus in this relationship of a agreement between Old and New Testaments we can see how the word of Scripture offers a progressive way. The words go to meet him; they seek him out where he is still in obscurity.
It is of course possible to read the Old Testament so that it is not directed toward Christ; it does not point quite unequivocally to Christ. And if Jews cannot see the promises as being fulfilled in him, this is not just ill will on their part, but genuinely because of the obscurity of the texts and the tension in their relationship between these texts and the figure of Jesus. Jesus brings a new meaning to these texts — yet it is he who first gives them their proper coherence and relevance and significance.
There are perfectly good reasons, then, for denying that the Old Testament refers to Christ and for saying, No, that is not what he said. And there are also good reasons for referring it to him–that is what the dispute between Jews and Christians is about. But this is not all. A great part of the purely historical and critical exegesis, likewise, does not read the Old Testament in the sense of pointing the way forward; it regards the Christian interpretation of it as being inconsistent with the original meaning, or at any rate as going far behind it.
One would have to add this: The Old Testament is not an oracle; it is a path. We still have the freedom to reject it. I would say that the very fact that this freedom is open is us is a guarantee that the texts will stand on their own. …
And from the message given at the first Mass in the Sistine Chapel today.
"With this awareness, I address myself to everyone, even to those who follow other religions or who are simply seeking an answer to the fundamental questions of life and have not yet found it. I address everyone with simplicity and affection, to assure them that the Church wants to continue to build an open and sincere dialogue with them, in a search for the true good of mankind and of society.
I think this is indicative of his understanding of other religions and that while he totally holds to Catholic truth, he understands the reasons that separate us and thus can move the Church forward in healing those divisions. A path that will follow what this predecessor and friend Pope John Paul II started
I think some were surprised that his first words were not Anathema Sit and that he has not excommunicated half of the Church. That there has been a straw man built around him when he acted as the prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is something the world is going to learn. That behind this great theologian and intellectual is a warm and humble man and he will not be at all what they expected. Again reading through his book "God and the World" I thought it was quite illustrative how he would answer questions. The interviewer Peter Seewald at times I found to ask some very annoying questions, especially in the way that some questions were phrased. The responses from then Cardinal Ratzinger were always patient and while he obviously disagreed with how some questions were framed; his response was totally in answering the question in such a way that even though I believe he demolished the ideas of the some of the questions, it was never directed as an attack at the questioner. The way he answered the questions reminded me of some of the old Japanese Samurai movies where in a duel you would see both men bring up their sword in air almost simultaneously. There would be a look of surprise on one of them when they realized that something just happened, but they were not sure what — just before their head fell off. I am not implying violence in the way the then Cardinal answered, but that they were clean strokes that surprised the questioner who would see that his own argument was insufficient.
Here is one case in point from the same book.
With the coming of Christ, the Old Testament laws, not only certain laws of ritual sacrifice but also that wretched "and eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth", have been superseded. Do we not find ourselves having to say that Christ corrects himself?
Here again, I would want to talk about traveling a historical path. "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" sounds frightful, but after all it was at first a principle of justice that contained and directed vengeance. The retaliation must correspond to the offense; it must not run out of control but be limited to what has been done. In that sense, this was a step forward to something that in fact is still recognized in the administration of justice. Besides this progress in legal thinking, we would, of course, have to add that it is only through a love that breaks the chain of reprisal that anything new can ever really come into being.
In the course of this conversation we have already dealt with the saying "I have not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it" Where the question of the Temple sacrifices is concerned, we confront this saying in quite concreted terms. The sacrificial offerings were always on a substitute. And when the one comes who gives the real thing, and who thereby brings man to the point of being able to give himself to God, then the whole meaning of those sacrificial procedures has been fulfilled in him. Now, the whole of what the Temple represented, and was meant to be is present in him as the living Temple. Thus something is not simply done away with, but its goal is brought to achievement.
In this way what the Temple was trying to do is still present in the Eucharist. But now in that meaningful form to which earlier rites were only preliminary approaches. So I would not sat that God got it right the second time. We wee, rather, how he allows men at first those forms they cannot yet get beyond, as part of a path that carries within it its own inner dynamic and necessarily leads them farther on. What this path truly signified is now fulfilled and receives it rightful place.
I will leave you with something else he said during his message this morning.
"Dear Ones, this intimate recognition for a gift of divine mercy prevails in my heart in spite of everything. I consider this a grace obtained for me by my venerated predecessor, John Paul II. It seems I can feel his strong hand squeezing mine; I seem to see his smiling eyes and listen to his words, addressed to me especially at this moment: ‘Do not be afraid!’