Dear Parishioners and Friends,
The prolonged process of electing a new Speaker of the House of Representatives, coupled with the release of the findings by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, made me realize that we have become a nation of finger pointers. Nor is finger-pointing limited to only the political sphere. Read any social media platform, and one quickly sees all the finger pointing taking place. Someone is always being blamed for something, right or wrong!
In the aftermath of his death and funeral, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI also became the object of much finger-pointing. The media were quick to point out (no pun intended) the positive and negative aspects of Benedict’s ecclesiastical career. Perhaps the most positive aspect, many claimed, was his decision to retire from the papacy in 2013. It showed great humility on his part, they said. Talk about damning with faint praise! It is true that Benedict didn’t possess some necessary qualities in his service upon the Chair of Peter. Some said that lacked a pastoral sense. He was a shy, introverted theologian who said that he wished he could have retired to his Bavarian homeland. Instead, he found himself, not only on the Chair of Peter, but the hottest seat in the world! It must be acknowledged that Benedict, especially in his work at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), hurt many of our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters, especially in the publication in 1986 of the document, On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons. Many felt that he didn’t do enough to confront the sexual abuse scandal in the Church, especially bishops who were seen as complicit in the cover-up. Others felt that he treated theologians too harshly by silencing them without due process.
I had a couple of experiences in his presence. The first occurred in the Spring of 1999 in San Francisco when I was on sabbatical, six years before Cardinal Josef Ratzinger was elected Pope. He had come to take part in a theological seminar sponsored by his friend and eventual successor at the CDF, San Francisco Archbishop William Levada. I sang in the choir of St. Mary’s Cathedral during my time the Bay area, and we took part in a Vespers service at the cathedral where Cardinal Ratzinger was present. The second occurrence was in 2008 when Pope Benedict visited New York City and celebrated Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Another experience didn’t actually happen – it was a dream I had some years ago in which I found myself sitting in the back seat of stretch limo with no one else in the car but Pope Benedict, and we were being driven around the campus of St. Bonaventure University in upstate New York! How and why it happened is a mystery, but I’ve never forgotten the dream. Now, many people have commented in the media how gracious and kind Benedict was, and those are the same feelings I experienced in my dream. I don’t remember anything of what the Pope said or what we talked about; all I remember are the feelings of gentleness, kindness and warmth that emanated from this small man with a shock of white hair. So, despite all the negative comments that have been made about the late Pope Emeritus, I still can’t shake off those feelings from a dream that left me feeling quite positive toward him.
That being said, take another look at the cover of today’s bulletin, and what do we see? John the Baptist is pointing his finger, not to blame someone, but to point out the One for whom he was the last of a long line of prophets who proclaimed his coming – Jesus of Nazareth, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. John basically had one job, and he did very well; he was the one who recognized Jesus and pointed him out to the people whom he baptized in order to be ready to receive him. John also pointed Jesus out to the first disciples: Andrew and Simon Peter, Philip and Nathaniel.
I would like to suggest that, rather than pointing fingers at someone in accusation or blame, we might stop for a moment and ask ourselves: “Is what I am doing just and fair?” After all, Jesus came to unite us, not to divide us.
Blessings on your week ahead!
Fr. Tim Shreenan, O.F.M.Pastor