Saturday, March 1, 2008

Homily on the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter

Archbishop Joseph Naumann, Kansas City in Kansas
Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter
Memorial Mass for Monsignor Luigi Giussani
Benedictine College
February 22, 2008

What Does Atchison Have in Common with New York?
It is a privilege to celebrate with you this afternoon this Feast of the Chair of St. Peter as we also prayerfully remember on the third anniversary of his death Monsignor Luigi Giussani. What do New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, D.C., Rochester, Minnesota and Atchison, Kansas have in common? Each of these great metro areas is blest to have Memores Domini community – the lay branch of Communion and Liberation – the movement which Father Giussani was the Holy Spirit’s instrument in giving birth.

Communion with Peter and His Successors
Today, in the liturgical calendar we celebrate the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter. We remember the great apostle upon which Jesus chose to build his Church. The fact that the great Basilica of St. Peter in Rome is built upon the tomb of Peter provides a striking metaphor on how the Lord has built his Church on the Rock of Peter and his successors.

I wear the Pallium that was given to me on the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul the same year of Monsignor Giussani’s death, by the current Successor of St. Peter, Pope Benedict XVI. The lambs, who gave the wool for this Pallium, had been blest by the late Pope John Paul II on the Feast of St. Agnes and the finished product was laid on the tomb of Peter, blest and bestowed by Pope Benedict XVI.

Monsignor Giussani was a dear personal friend to both of these Popes. Yet, in addition to his personal relationship with Karol Wojtyla and Joseph Ratzinger, he was a friend of the Successors of St. Peter because he was a friend to their Lord and his Lord. This Pallium, in part,symbolizes my communion and the communion of my ministry as the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kansas City and the Province of Kansas with the ministry of the Successor of Peter on behalf of the universal church.

It is also a reminder of the truths: 1) I do not carry this responsibility alone but Jesus bears this yoke with me – making it light and 2) I am not charged to teach my own philosophy or theology, thank God, but to teach Jesus and the fullness of the Faith entrusted to Peter and the Apostles and their Successors. This Feast is a reminder of the great blessing that Jesus gave to His Church by entrusting the keys to Peter and His successors, giving the Church a magisterium – a teaching authority in the person of Peter in communion with the other Apostles and their successors who under the guidance of the Holy Spirit were charged to guard the integrity of the Gospel of Jesus and make its application to the unique circumstances and challenges presented by each age.

We thus pray in a very special way for Pope Benedict XVI today that the Lord may continue to bless and make fruitful his ministry as Shepherd of the universal Church. How could we not be reminded of our Holy Father when we listened to the first reading today from the First Epistle of St. Peter exhorting priests to be humble and faithful shepherds of the flock of Jesus?

You are the Christ the Son of the Living God

The Gospel today presents us with Peter’s great profession of faith at Caesarea Philippi. When Jesus asks the Apostles the pointed and personal question: “Who do you say that I am?”, it is Peter who answers: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Peter’s great strength was not his superior intelligence, not his personal strength of character, not his leadership skills. Peter’s strength was his relationship with Jesus. Whatever his personal weaknesses and flaws, which the Gospel documents were many, Peter knew who Jesus was, and Peter knew of the love of Jesus for him!

From Peter’s realization of his own unworthiness to be in the company of Jesus after the great catch when Jesus first invited Peter to put out into the deep to Peter’s desire to have his feet and hands and head washed when Jesus instructs Peter: “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”, the Father had given Peter special insight into the true identity of Jesus. It was the power of the depth of Peter’s love for Jesus that, despite his sinking in the water, his attempts to dissuade Jesus from the cross, and even his cowardly denial of Jesus in the Courtyard of the High Priest, made Peter indeed a rock upon which Jesus could build his church.

Begging for Jesus

Monsignor Giussani understood the primacy of the relationship with Jesus for every Christian. It was because he sought this in his own life and formed this constant yearning for Jesus in the formation of those who became part of Communion and Liberation that the Holy Spirit was able to make his ministry so remarkably fruitful.

Monsignor Giussani understood prayer to be first and foremost this seeking of communion with Jesus, this begging for Jesus to enter his heart. He wrote: “…Christ reveals Himself to me, He reveals His presence to me and comes into my life the more I ask for Him, because He does not come in where He is not awaited. The essence of prayer is begging for Christ: `Come, Lord Jesus,’ it is the last word in the Bible and first word of the early Christians. … Prayer is the only phenomenon in which man engages his whole stature. Whoever follows the life of the Movement can testify that I personally do not talk about anything else, in comparison, more than this. Because man is aspiration, he is a search; he is neither aspiration nor search if he is not an entreaty.”

Page Three

From the One Who is Truth Comes Freedom

Monsignor Giussani understood that it is in this seeking of Jesus, seeking the one who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, that true liberation and freedom is to be found. Monsignor Giussani believed not just in his mind but in his heart the instruction of Jesus: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it.”

The future Pope Benedict XVI described this abandonment of himself in the pursuit of Jesus in a homily he gave at Monsignor Giussani’s funeral Mass:

This love affair with Christ, this love story which is the whole of his life was however far from every superficial enthusiasm, from every vague romanticism. Really seeing Christ, he knew to encounter Christ means to follow Christ. This encounter is a road, a journey, a journey that passes also – as we heard in the psalm – through the ‘valley of darkness.’ In the Gospel, we heard of the last darkness of Christ’s suffering, of the apparent absence of God, when the world’s sun was eclipsed. He knew that to follow is to pass through a valley of darkness,’ to take the way of the cross, and to live all the same in true joy.

“Why is it so? The Lord himself translated this mystery on the cross, which is really the mystery of love, with a formula in which the whole reality of our life is explained. The Lord says, ‘Whoever seeks his life, will lose it and whoever lose his life, will find it.

Seek Communion with Jesus above all Else

On this Feast of Peter, let us pray for the gift to recognize Jesus for who He is: “…the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” As we come forward to receive the Eucharist, let us beg that the Holy Spirit might open us to receive the one who desires to reside in the tabernacle of our hearts. May we seek communion with Jesus above all else! May we seek to lose our own ambitions and desires and thus find life, freedom and joy in He who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life!

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