This week, we as Catholics welcome Pope Benedict XVI, who comes to us not as political leader, corporate CEO, or celebrity, but rather as our Holy Father, our spiritual leader.
He comes to proclaim Jesus Christ as the hope for our nation and in particular for all American Catholics. In his message to the American Church prior to his arrival, he emphasized hope for peace, for justice and for freedom. He stated: “But this hope can never be fulfilled without obedience to the law of God, which Christ brought to fulfillment in the commandment to love one another. Do to others as you would have them do to you, and avoid doing what you would not want them to do.”
Since he began his pontificate three years ago this week, and especially during this historic visit to the United States, Pope Benedict has emphasized the critical need for each of us to encounter Jesus. As our Holy Father, he has shown and continues to show – both in his words and through his life – that true fulfillment, joy, and lasting peace can only be found by saying “Yes” to God’s plan of salvation as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. He reminds us to view the Church not as a super-national organization, not as a bureaucratic body or means for power and domination, not even as a social agency, even though she carries out a social mission, but rather as a spiritual body. From the very first days of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI set forth an authentic program of shepherding the Church, as he stated: “My true program for governing the Church is not to carry out my own will or pursue my own ideas, but to place myself together with the entire Church in listening to the Word of the Lord, discerning his will, and allowing myself to be led by him, because he alone will guide the Church through this phase of history.”
Pope Benedict has consistently demonstrated his ability to communicate the Christian message of hope and love to a world in desperate need of both. As Holy Father and our spiritual leader, his message has been uncomplicated as he proclaims Jesus as the Lord of Light to a world that lives far too often in the darkness. As he boldly proclaims that Jesus Christ is the only way to save the world during this visit, his first apostolic journey to the United States, he provides a challenge to our nation and to every American Catholic to face the issues of our day with Christian love and hope.
We are in the midst of a historic week for our Church and our nation, and as Catholics we must look to our Holy Father not simply with great pride but in full unity with the successor of Saint Peter. We are called to put our faith and trust in him and the message of Christian hopes he proclaims. Let us pray that others, especially our fallen away brothers and sisters, will do the same and see in the Church the same beacon of hope that we proclaim her to be. This week, as we continue to reflect upon this historic Apostolic journey to the United States by Pope Benedict XVI , we must recall the words of the great Doctor of the Church, Saint Ambrose, who so wisely said: “Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia.” “Where Peter is, there is the Church.”
Peter is here in our nation. Let us rejoice together in faith, hope and love!