UPDATE: Some video of Pope Francis Mass this morning. Please note he is celebrating Mass in the Pauline chapel. Pope Benedict would celebrate Mass at this altar ad orientem although it is also designed for facing the people. Pope Francis is not about to celebrate Mass ad orientem, but please note that there is the "Benedictine Altar Arrangement" with the crucifix and Bishop's candle dead center, just as Pope Benedict indicated in one of his books is a very powerful way to pray "ad orientem" even when facing the congregation. The hermeneutic of continuity at work in a pope quite different than Pope Benedict, but quite hierarchical. He also used Pope Benedict's staff this morning. I think the one with the crucifix would be better for Lent, Pope Benedict's better for the Easter Season and perhaps a third better for Ordinary Time. What do you think? I personally like Pope Paul VI's staff.
Some trends in trendy theology that has gotten not a few theologians into trouble with past popes is when they say that Christ can be found independently of the Church or Christ is not the only way to salvation, a sort of revising of the heresy of "universalism." Thank God Pope Francis in continuity with his predecessors is on the side of orthodoxy and continuity not only with the history of the Church but with his immediate predecessor also on such things.
Here is his homily for today's Feast of the Martyr Saint George, which is Pope Francis' patron saint "Jorge."
The [first] reading today makes me think that the missionary expansion of the Church began precisely at a time of persecution, and these Christians went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, and proclaimed the Word. They had this apostolic fervor within them, and that is how the faith spread! Some, people of Cyprus and Cyrene - not these, but others who had become Christians - went to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks too. It was a further step. And this is how the Church moved forward. Whose was this initiative to speak to the Greeks? This was not clear to anyone but the Jews. But ... it was the Holy Spirit, the One who prompted them ever forward ... But some in Jerusalem, when they heard this, became 'nervous and sent Barnabas on an "apostolic visitation": perhaps, with a little sense of humor we could say that this was the theological beginning of the Doctrine of the Faith: this apostolic visit by Barnabas. He saw, and he saw that things were going well.
And so the Church was a Mother, the Mother of more children, of many children. It became more and more of a Mother. A Mother who gives us the faith, a Mother who gives us an identity. But the Christian identity is not an identity card: Christian identity is belonging to the Church, because all of these belonged to the Church, the Mother Church. (MY COMMENT: POPE FRANCIS ORTHODOX AND IN CONTINUITY BOMBSHELL, OF COURSE NOTHING NEW ABOUT A POPE BEING ORTHODOX!:)Because it is not possible to find Jesus outside the Church. The great Paul VI said: "Wanting to live with Jesus without the Church, following Jesus outside of the Church, loving Jesus without the Church is an absurd dichotomy." And the Mother Church that gives us Jesus gives us our identity that is not only a seal, it is a belonging. Identity means belonging. This belonging to the Church is beautiful.
And the third idea comes to my mind - the first was the explosion of missionary activity; the second, the Mother Church - and the third, that when Barnabas saw that crowd - the text says: " And a large number of people was added to the Lord" - when he saw those crowds, he experienced joy. " When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced ": his is the joy of the evangelizer. It was, as Paul VI said, "the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing." And this joy begins with a persecution, with great sadness, and ends with joy. And so the Church goes forward, as one Saint says - I do not remember which one, here - "amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of the Lord." And thus is the life of the Church. If we want to travel a little along the road of worldliness, negotiating with the world - as did the Maccabees, who were tempted, at that time - we will never have the consolation of the Lord. And if we seek only consolation, it will be a superficial consolation, not that of the Lord: a human consolation. The Church's journey always takes place between the Cross and the Resurrection, amid the persecutions and the consolations of the Lord. And this is the path: those who go down this road are not mistaken.
Let us think today about the missionary activity of the Church: these [people] came out of themselves to go forth. Even those who had the courage to proclaim Jesus to the Greeks, an almost scandalous thing at that time. Think of this Mother Church that grows, grows with new children to whom She gives the identity of the faith, because you cannot believe in Jesus without the Church. Jesus Himself says in the Gospel: " But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep." If we are not "sheep of Jesus," faith does not come to us. It is a rosewater faith, a faith without substance. And let us think of the consolation that Barnabas felt, which is "the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing." And let us ask the Lord for this "parresia", this apostolic fervor that impels us to move forward, as brothers, all of us forward! Forward, bringing the name of Jesus in the bosom of Holy Mother Church, and, as St. Ignatius said, "hierarchical and Catholic." So be it.