Monday, April 6, 2009

Benedict's Palm Sunday Message On Love And Ego

This doesn't really have anything to do with this post, but it's a very cool photo taken from the Hubble telescope. This is an infra red shot of the Sombrero Galaxy.

Benedict XVI Says Love Defines Man's Journey


Benedict XVI is affirming that love, a true gift of self as exemplified in the Cross of Jesus, gives meaning to life, and that its absence brings emptiness and boredom.

The Pope said this in a homily this morning at the Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square. He blessed palm and olive branches and presided over the liturgical celebration.

The Pontiff explained that Jesus, the King who entered Jerusalem in a triumphal procession, comes to introduce a new type of kingdom.

This kingdom, he said, "passes through the cross." He added, "Because Jesus gives himself totally, he can as the Risen One belong to everyone and make himself present to all."

The Holy Father noted that Christ's kingdom is also "universal" and "knows no more borders."

This is possible, he said, "because it is not a political kingdom, but is based solely on the free adhesion of love -- a love that, for its part, answers to the love of Jesus Christ that has given itself for all."

He continued: "Universality includes the mystery of the cross -- the overcoming of ourselves, obedience toward the universal word of Jesus Christ in the universal Church.
"Universality is always an overcoming of ourselves, a renunciation of something that is ours. Universality and the cross go together. Only in this way can peace be created."


Benedict XVI affirmed: "He who wants to have his life for himself, live only for himself, squeeze out everything for himself and exploit all the possibilities -- he is the one who loses his life.

"It becomes boring and empty. Only in abandoning ourselves, only in the disinterested gift of the 'I' in favor of the 'Thou,' only in the 'Yes' to the greater life, precisely the life of God, our life too becomes full and more spacious."

He added: "Love, in fact, means leaving yourself behind, giving yourself, not wanting to hold on to yourself, but becoming free from yourself: not getting preoccupied with yourself -- what will become of me -- but looking ahead, toward the other -- toward God and the people whom he sends to me.

"It is this principle of love that defines man's journey, it is once again identical with the mystery of the cross, with the mystery of death and resurrection that we encounter in Christ."
The Pope emphasized that this "Yes" to the Lord must be repeated every day, especially when "we just want to hang on to that 'I.'" He added, "There is no successful life without sacrifice."

Real prayer

Though it is difficult, he affirmed, we can pray like Jesus, who "felt driven to ask that he be spared the terror of the passion."

The Pontiff continued: "Before God we must not take refuge in pious phrases, in a world of make-believe. Praying also means struggling with God."

"In the end," he said, "God's glory, his lordship, his will is always more important and more true than my thoughts and my will."

The Holy Father added: "And this is what is essential in our prayer and in our life: understanding this right order of reality, accepting it interiorly; trusting in God and believing that he is doing the right thing; understanding that his will is the truth and is love; understanding that my life will be a good life if I can learn how to conform to this order.

"The life, death and resurrection of Jesus are the guarantee that we can truly entrust ourselves to God. It is in this way that his kingdom is realized."


This is one heck of a sermon. The only thing I might have added, is that "understanding this right order of reality, accepting it interiorly, trusting in God and believing that He is doing the right thing", is a process and at times it seems to be an endless process. Especially now, in these kinds of times, when everything we believed in and trusted about this world seems to have been turned topsy-turvy and fear is everywhere.

But if one looks closely, one can see that God is truly at work. For instance, I never thought I would live to see the day when I would hear an American President announce that America's goal is to rid the world of nuclear weapons and mean it and begin to act on it.
In his message Sunday, in Czechoslovakia, President Obama even admitted it was up to the US, as a moral imperative, to lead the way in this process since we've been the only country who ever used nuclear weapons. This is a perfect example of what Pope Benedict means by getting over your own ego. Sometimes those ego issues belong to nations--and to Churches. Like people, nations can't get over their own egos if they aren't willing to trust other nations, believing that common interest can be pursued above and beyond national interest.

The counter example to this came on the same day that President Obama delivered this speech when North Korea, that bastion of national mistrust, launched a three stage rocket over Japan. There always seems to be a direct challenge from old thinking when new thinking starts to express itself. It will be informative to watch what kind of unified response the rest of the world will make in this instance. The unfortunate thing about North Korea is that the national expression is essentially the ego expression of one man. This is also another trait of very old energy. Fear and paranoia are not environments in which trust can grow.

I am frequently amazed at how on target Benedict can be in explaining the true underlying messages about the life of Jesus, but then turn around and manage the Institutional Church from a fear based position. It's an inconsistency that's hard for me to reconcile. Maybe it's because it doesn't show much real trust in all the People of God. Or maybe it's because he's placed too much trust in the very People of God who don't trust and in turn can't be trusted. People he seems to think share his vision of the Church. Well, they may share his vision of the Church, but they don't seem to share his vision of Jesus or what it means to be truly Christian, as opposed to Orthodox Catholic. The two are not necessarily synonymous.

Benedict certainly experienced that with the SSPX. Bishop Fellay seems to have a terminal case of tunnel vision when it comes to anything about the Church after 1962 and seems to have arrogantly decided that he and his group are the only keepers of the flame of Tradition. Lots of ego and old energy in this position, and a lot of backlash for Benedict. I think the big lesson for Benedict is that if you truly want to move forward you can not be held back by old energy and old attitudes. They will suck you right down to their level.

One of the things I've noticed in studying the life of Jesus, is that once he threw aside all ego concerns via His temptation experience in the desert, He never looked back. He kept going forward, and even the ego concerns of His followers didn't distract Him or suck Him down: Then they came to Capernaum ; and when [Jesus] was in the house he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the way?" But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all." - Mark 9:33-35

Essentially Jesus is telling them get over yourselves. The only thing that should concern you is that you are servants of all, which makes you least among all. You and your egos are nothing. It is your spirit which is everything and it needs nothing that can not be provided for you, because God the Father is the greatest servant of all and He is in you and will provide for you.

Benedict so seems to get this on some levels, and then not on others. George Weigel had an interesting article on Benedict in which he writes that Benedict didn't want to be Pope precisely because he recognized he wasn't good at governance. He wanted to retire to Bavaria and get out of the Vatican. Unfortunately for Benedict, there were other Cardinals who wanted to use Benedict for their own agendas, and they pushed his candidacy. According the Weigel, their biggest fear was that he wouldn't accept.

I wonder if Pope Benedict wishes he hadn't accepted because some of these supporters are doing neither him nor the Church any favors, and, lo and behold, they are not representatives of the progressive wing. They are some of the most conservative members of the College of Cardinals, and the most conservative and cultic of the 'new movements'. It could be the progressive wing of the Church is starting to look a little more inviting to Benedict.

In the meantime, I have yet to find one article on any conservative site which is extolling President Obama's G20 or nuclear initiatives. They are still pounding on Notre Dame and calling President Obama "baby killer, and agent of the culture of death'. Unfortunately that includes more and more bishops, who seem compelled to cc: the Cardinal Newman Society with their letters to Fr. Jenkins and Notre Dame. Well, there is one way to completely eliminate abortion--nuke the world till it glows, a strategy President Obama doesn't endorse.


  1. Thank you Colleen for this piece! I had looked around for coverage of the Holy Father's remarks during his homily, but most news sites only covered his remarks during his Angelus address. But yes, Pope Benedict does understand the true character of Jesus Christ in a remarkably clear way. But like you said, perhaps he is hiding this vision in favor of continuing to proclaim the vision favored by the conservative members of the hiearchy. But at the core of his being, what does Joseph Ratzinger believe about the Church and how Jesus Christ truly would have intended it to look?

    Let's hope and pray that the Holy Spirit will illumine his heart so that someday he might realize that if the Church truly is to be "universal" in all facets of its framework it must invite all peoples to joint he family of the faithful of Christ. Gay, straight, black, white, sick, rich, and poor alike. Haha that rhymes! =P I think deep down, he understands this, but because of that fear that I believe took over Joseph Ratzinger in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, he is afraid to see things or perhaps ALLOW them to be seen in a new light.

    But today's Psalm appropriately proclaimed the LORD is our LIGHT and our SALVATION! Let's pray that the Lord would truly illumine the heart of our Holy Father and all of the leaders of the Church to truly see how they can genuinely work to make the Church a genuine, universal vehicle for all of mankind!

  2. Sometimes Benedict reminds me of the rich kid in the Gospels who understood the message of Jesus and was inspired by it, and then when he asked "What must I do?, the price was a little too high.

    However, the older I've gotten the more I've seen that the price seems to start dropping faster than Walmart's. That's why I have some hope for Benedict. Realistically, anything he would lose in terms of his vision of Catholicism would result in huge gains for the rest of the Church.

    If Jesus had spent all His time placating the fears of the most conservative of the Jews, He would have soundly failed in His mission. Exactly as He would have failed had He caved into His own fears. My prayer is that the Easter Benedict gets this.

    Just as Jesus didn't choose the most Orthodox for His apostles, Benedict could put more trust in progressives. Progressives won't get everything right, just like the apostles, but they may get things less wrong and be more willing to learn from their mistakes--just like the apostles.