Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Sprinkling of Grace: random thoughts about the papacy

Sacrificial love with a servant's heart.

That's Lent.

One of my grown daughters went to daily Mass with me today. She's not Catholic. She was almost an adult when I converted; so I know that it will take a double portion of grace for her to make that leap. But with God, it's all possible.

My youngest daughter has been given a great gift. She was in kindergarten when I made the journey. She can barely remember anything that came before...
...before the Eucharist,
...before the holy water font,
...before the love for Mary,
...before the concept of saints' days and Lent and Advent and Ordinary Time,
...before the understanding of 2000 years of Church history and apostolic succession.

My littlest one is blessed indeed.

But this one, this one who grew up without all of these things, is stuck. She sees goodness in Mother Church. She has an appreciation for infant baptism and the Eucharist.

But she is stuck. The one area that was never a problem for me is a huge obstacle for her.
She just doesn't get the papacy.

The "why" of it all.

So, I pray. I pray that it will all make sense to her one day. Today, as we sat together in the Mass, I looked at the priest, and I thought about the "why" of it. I trust that the priest is standing in the place of Christ--
...because he is connected to the bishop.
...because bishops laid hands on him when he was ordained.
...because those bishops laid hands on his bishop.
...because the pope called that bishop to be a shepherd.
...because that pope came after a long line of popes.
...because the line began with St. Peter.
...because Jesus said, "You are rock (kepha) and upon this rock (kepha) I will build my Church."

I looked at my parish priest this morning, and it was a moment of beauty. He isn't a tyrannical head. In him, I see a servant.

One who is a servant of many servants.

The papacy has authority. Established by Jesus Christ.

But it is not a tyrannical kind of authority. Because this authority comes from Jesus Christ, it is the kind of authority we see in the Lamb of God.

Sacrificial Love, borne of a servant's heart.
It is the kind of authority that my heart longs to follow.

And so, I eagerly wait for tomorrow morning, when this journey into sacrifice and service consumes the entire Church.

Ash Wednesday. I'm ready.

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