for the Seventh Anniversary of Pope Francis’ Election to the Petrine Ministry
(CBCK Chapel, Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent , March 18, 2020)
of the Most Rev. Hyginus Kim Hee-joong, President of the CBCK
+ Praised be Jesus!
Today, we are celebrating Holy Mass to commemorate the seventh anniversary of Pope Francis’ election to the Petrine ministry. His Holiness was elected as the 266th Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church on March 13, 2013. More than anything, during this Holy Mass we give thanks to God for sending us such an excellent Church leader. In the time of division, when Europe was divided politically into East and West due to ideological differences, St. Pope John Paul II led Europe towards unity by stressing Christian values. When there was a tendency to misunderstand the Christian faith, as if faith had nothing to do with Church doctrine, Pope Benedict XVI confirmed the importance of orthodoxy for both faith and doctrine. In turn, God sent us another supreme pastor, Pope Francis. He is a down-to-earth pope well suited for our times. For such unceasing work by the Holy Spirit, we are most grateful to the Lord.
Pope Francis chose his papal name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of the poor. Following in the Saint’s footsteps, the Holy Father continues to denounce inequality between rich and poor. He also condemns hypocrisy shown both inside and outside of the Church by some of the powerful and faithful. Pope Francis lives an exemplary life of humility and poverty. In these chaotic times, he is a beacon illuminating the way not only for the faithful, but for all humanity, pointing beyond the barriers of religions and ideologies. During interreligious dialogue meetings which take place in our country, I am pleased to hear leaders of diverse religious communities unanimously praised Pope Francis as a great teacher of humanity. His every action reflects his lifestyle of poverty and humility. For instance, Pope Francis’ refusal to use the papal residence in the Apostolic Palace; instead, choosing to live in St. Martha’s house, accommodation used for clergy who are traveling or working in the Roman Curia.
A couple of years ago, some of my diocesan priests and I stayed in St. Martha’s house during our pilgrimage to Rome. At breakfast we found that our table was short of bread and so we took some loaves from an other table. While we were having our meal, to our great surprise, Pope Francis came into the dinning room having finishing morning Mass. He proceeded to have breakfast at the very table which we had previously taken the bread from. Because all the refectory tables looked exactly the same we had failed to noticed that it was the table set aside for the Pope. As seen in this example, Pope Francis, successor to Peter the Apostle, simply desires to stay close to us as an elder brother in the Christian family.
Today’s reading (Is 61,1-3) and Gospel (Mt 16,13-19) help us to understand the mission entrusted by Christ to the Supreme Pontiff. The reading from the book of Isaiah illustrates our mission to share in Christ’s priesthood. The prophet Isaiah sums up his own vocation by saying, “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me.” From then onwards, the prophet had to commit himself to his vocation “to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God, to comfort all who mourn.”
The Gospel according to St. Luke recounts an episode when Jesus, in the synagogue one day, unrolled the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and read the same passage that we have just heard. Jesus said, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” It means that Jesus himself is the One who fulfilled this prophecy. His words continue to be fulfilled today through our own priestly ministry. By virtue of the words of Christ, we as pastors undertake the task of announcing the Good News first to the poor. It is also a pastors’ mission to bring hope and comfort to the poor, unfortunate and marginalized not only materially, but in other ways, too. In addition, such a mission includes pastoral care for those who, for many reasons, are heartbroken and discouraged; pastors should encourage such people to regain their strength so as to live fully. We pastors are entrusted with the mission to accompany those who suffer at the hands of unjust and unfair treatment, so that they can live happily and enjoy authentic freedom.
In the Gospel today, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” As we know well, Eliah became furious when God’s righteousness was infringed and passionately defended justice by protecting the lives and properties of the vulnerable. The Prophet Jeremiah was “a lone prophet of the word,” proclaiming God’s will faithfully, refusing to compromise with the ruling powers or any other form of populism. John the Baptist exercised mortification and fasting in the desert and courageously rebuked Herod’s unrighteous behavior. Therefore, he was considered to be the risen Elijah. At that time, many people looked forward to the coming of a Messiah such as Elijah or John the Baptist because they were groaning under the tyranny of their rulers and exploitation from the powerful. However, Jesus is the incomparable God, the One who is unlike any other independence fighter standing against political repression. He combines and embraces the prophetic roles of Elijah, Jeremiah, and John the Baptist.
Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” This means that Jesus is God who always abides in us and the Savior who will lead us to eternal life. The Lord is intangible and invisible. However, the more faithfully we conform ourselves to Him, the closer we can approach Him and the more clearly we can see Him with enlightened eyes and hearts. Indeed, we believe in the living God who cares for us and is concerned with every aspect of our lives. We place at the center of our faith Peter’s confession about Jesus. Likewise, the Gospel according to Mark begins with, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ [the Son of God]” (Mk 1,1). It reveals to us that Jesus is the living God, who is always with us and cares for each one of us even to the extent of counting the hairs of our heads. He is the Messiah, the Savior who will lead us to eternal life. As the successor of Peter the Apostle, Pope Francis guides us in the way towards Jesus Christ, the Son of living God. We, the bishops, thank the Lord for giving us the joy of participating in the college of apostles in communion with our elder brother, Pope Francis, the 266th Pope and the 265th successor to Peter the Apostle.
We thank the Holy Spirit for inspiring and allowing the Church to elect Francis, the Bishop of Rome, to be the 266th Pope. O Lord, who chose Peter the first of the apostles, grant Pope Francis, the 265th successor to Peter the Apostle, the grace to maintain both a healthy body and mind, so that he can successfully carry out the mission entrusted to him according to Thou will. Amen.
March 18, 2020
+ Hyginus Kim Hee-joong
President of the CBCK