Today, or tomorrow, or perhaps the next day, a new shepherd of the one billion plus Catholics scattered all over the planet will be chosen. He will enter the Room of Tears, don the white robes, and take up a cross of inestimable weight. Today begins the Conclave of 2013.
Who will fill the sandals of the Fisherman? Who will guard and protect, care for and cultivate the garden of God that is the Church, helping to heal the wounds of a decade of scandals that reached decades back into the past? Who will continue to plant seeds of hope and joy, be that moral conscience and collaborator with all people of good will in the proclamation of human dignity?
Now some ask if the new pontiff (a word meaning “bridge”) should be more of a manager and administrator of the Church in the wake of this decade of scandal, of bureaucratic stagnation, and in some areas, a dwindling presence of the faithful. But should the Church, this explosive and vibrant concoction of Divinity and humanity, this human vessel of Divine Wine, fold within itself, circle the wagons, and nurse its own wounds? Or should it continue humbly to be the Wounded Healer? To bring the grace that flows through wounds to a broken world?
This is the question: should the new Pope be more of a CEO, keeping things in line, tidying up, holding his proverbial thumb in the wall to keep the structure of the Church intact? Or is this a moment for evangelical dynamism and reckless love? Many feel the new Shepherd of the Universal Church, conscious of the flaws in the Church should press on with bold zeal, seeking the Lord’s mercy. We have been a flawed body of believers from the very beginning. The Church needs more than a manager; it needs a messenger. A passionate, warrior pope who could press into the malaise of materialism with the sword of the spirit; who could continue building a solid moral ground against an amorphous “dictatorship of relativism.” Who can remind us all of the vast horizon of humanity’s inherent greatness, and our call to communion with God and others in love.
In today’s first reading from Ezekiel, this is the vision of grace that we see: Water, fresh, pure, abundant, flows everywhere. It is flowing from the sanctuary in the Temple of God, rising up and flowing out into the world. This sanctuary is the Heart of Christ, and remains the source of the Church’s strength, identity, mission and medicine for the world. If we look to the sanctuary, if we let that water flow over us and into us, we shall do well.
Today, in the Eternal City, men are gathered from the four corners of the world. Let us pray that this living water flows from that sanctuary, and fills them all!