Readings and Homily from morning Mass today celebrated by Fr Richard in Ss Joseph and Francis Xavier
16th Sunday of Ordinary Time: John Paul I's legacy
Those of you who are more senior than me will no doubt remember Pope John Paul I – known as the “smiling pope” (incidentally whose cause for canonisation is still ongoing). I imagine it will have been a great shock on 28 September 1978 to learn of his death – only 33 days into his papacy.
There’s a story of that day which is handed down to generations of students at the English College in Rome where I trained for the priesthood. Apparently, on hearing the news early in the morning, one of the more senior students thought he’d better tell the Rector. Knocking on his door, the student said: “Fr Rector – the pope is dead!” After a few moments the response came which was something like: “Go back to bed you stupid boy – that was last month!” “No – the new pope is dead,” the student replied.
We might wonder why, in God’s plan, did we have such a short papacy? I’m speculating – but perhaps the Lord wanted John Paul I (Albino Luciani) to remind the Church and the world of just one (or rather three) important things. Because after his first (introductory) Wednesday audience, unbeknown to him, he had just three more - and he chose to give Catechises on faith, hope and love: the theological virtues. We prayed at the beginning of this Mass in the Collect for the Lord to increase the gifts of His grace in us, “that made fervent in hope, faith and charity” we “may be ever watchful in keeping [His] commands.”
The three theological virtues were given as a gift by God to us at our baptism. By living them, we come into a relationship with the Holy Trinity. We cannot live without them. They are those habits by which we do the good. Interestingly, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church the virtues are explained before the Ten Commandments are. That’s because to stand any chance of living God’s law, we first need to grow in virtue – especially in these three.
Faith – the virtue by which we commit our entire selves to God, by which we believe in Him and the things He has revealed to us. Hope – by which we desire “the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promise…”
And charity, the greatest of the virtues, “by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbour as ourselves for the love of God.”
If we grow in these virtues we will be like the wheat in today’s Gospel producing a good harvest amid the darnel (the evil in our world). To cultivate faith, hope and love will result in us shining like the sun in the world today and in the Kingdom of our Father.