Friday, March 15, 2013

The Operative Word Is "Joy"

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum. That's Latin for: I announce to you a great joy. It's how the introduction of a new pope begins. That's what you saw bubbling up in St. Peter's Square: pure joy. The guy on the balcony is as close as we get to God in this life. He's a sinner, but he's our link to Peter and thus to the One who commissioned Peter to lead the church. Viva il Papa.

To those who see a bunch of opium-of-the-people idiots deluding themselves, I don't know what to say.

Actually, I do know what to say. Rid yourself of pride and realize that surrender to God does not mean extinction of your self. You get your self back and then some. It's like going from black-and-white to color. If you could get past that one obstacle, you would open yourself to a kind of joy that otherwise is not attainable. You'll still have to contend with sin and setbacks and suffering, but the counterintuitive truth is that you will be more yourself with God's help than you can be on your own.

Popes, and less famous but equally devout Christians, are not robotic clones conforming to a single monolithic identity. They are some of the most genuinely unique characters on Earth.

John Paul II and Benedict XVI both were passionate teachers, but the former was a showman while the latter was and remains a scholarly theologian. Francis apparently is part high-powered intellectual and part humble man-of-the-people. He seems to have a more conversational style than his two most recent predecessors. He is not trying to be Benedict XVI, just as Benedict XVI did not try to be John Paul II. His choice of a papal name, the first Francis, is evidence of his individuality.

To those who think the smoke and the bells and the magnificent basilica and square and the Swiss guards and the bands and the ritual and ceremony are all too much, hey, we are physical beings living in a physical world. Compared to God it's a silly little display, but God Himself created us and the world, and we connect with Him through it, through our senses and physical realities such as smoke and bells and music and bread and wine and sacred words and actions -- and sometimes a raucous crowd of tens of thousands.

It all comes back to that word: joy.

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