Hope Springs Eternal

I keep waiting for the New York Times to discuss Catholicism in general or Pope Benedict in particular in a way that moves beyond platitudes and fluff to some substantive insight. I know, I know: naive me.

The cover story in Easter Sunday's New York Times Magazine (not yet online) deals the latest blow to my incorrigible optimism. The cover shows a sketch of the Pope with the caption "The Anti-Secularist." Inside the article is entitled "Keeping the Faith." Whatever the title, the content remains something old, little new, a lot borrowed, a motley stew.

Aside from the stacked deck ending, one finds absolutely no understanding or mention of the Pope's passionately Christocentric vision and mission. Absent that perception, one has not the slightest clue concerning what the man is about.

As the latest statement of Benedict's vision see his brief remarks at last evening's Stations of the Cross in the Colosseum, (with grateful acknowledgment to Rocco Palmo):

Dear brothers and sisters,

Following Jesus along the way of his passion, we see not only the suffering of Jesus, but also all the suffering of the world; this is the deep intention of the prayer of the Way of the Cross: to open our hearts and to help us to see with our hearts.

The Fathers of the Church considered insensitivity, the hardness of heart, as the greatest sin of the pagan world and so loved the prophecy of Ezekiel: "I will take your heart of stone and will give you a heart of flesh" (Ez 36:26). To convert ourselves to Christ, to become Christian, is to receive a heart of flesh, a sensitive heart for the agony and suffering of others.

Our God is not a faraway God, untouchable in his blessedness: our God has a heart. Rather, he has a heart of flesh, made flesh itself to suffer with us and to be with us in our sufferings. He made himself man to give us a heart of flesh and to reawaken in us a love for the suffering, for the needy.

Let us pray to the Lord in this hour for all the afflicted of the world. Let us pray to the Lord that he may really give us a heart of flesh and make us messengers of His love not only with words, but with all our life. Amen.

Scroll down Rocco's blog for the magnificent Chrism Mass Homily, and stay tuned for his posting of Benedict's Easter homily. That's where hope will truly spring.

Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is the author of Rekindling the Christic Imagination.

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