Day 4 – Welcome Ceremony with Pope

My day started around 4am.  Jetlag and the summer heat are not my friend.  But I spent some time in prayer and reading the Gospel of Matthew in Spanish.  Surprisingly neither of these things sent me back to sleep…instead they encouraged me and I was out the door before 7.

Not wanting to spend a second day alone, I approached a group and asked if I could tag along.  They were a combined group from West Virginia, Odessa, Texas (shout out to Sarilyn) and a little old priest from Brooklyn – they welcomed me gladly.  So off we went to the Palacio de Deportes for some awesome worship, preaching and Mass for all us English speakers.  A great talk was given by Jason and Chrystalina Evert on chastity.  As Jason said, saying “Sex is wrong and dirty and you’re gonna die” doesn´t really work.  But understanding what chastity does for your relationship, your future family and yourself inspires people to scorn the mediocre and reach for the best.

Later in the afternoon I headed to La Plaza de Cibeles for the Welcome Ceremony of the Pope.

The streets were jammed full of people in all directions – many pilgrims, many locals brave enough to face the crowds.  The heat was stifling, and as I saw some being carried away from heat exhaustion, I decided to find some space on a side street and perched myself on a doorstep, simply listening to the celebration.  I was grateful that I could understand most of the ceremony – the prayers of the young people, the gifts presented to the Pope, the Gospel reading about the wise man who built his house upon the rock.  And then…the Pope began his homily, and my spanish vocabulary was no match for his eloquence. Here is an exerpt:

If you build on solid rock, not only your life will be solid and stable, but it will also help project the light of Christ shining upon those of your own age and upon the whole of humanity, presenting a valid alternative to all those who have fallen short, because the essentials in their lives were inconsistent; to all those who are content to follow fashionable ideas, they take shelter in the here and now, forgetting true justice, or they take refuge in their own opinions instead of seeking the simple truth.

Indeed, there are many who, creating their own gods, believe they need no roots or foundations other than themselves.  They take it upon themselves to decide what is true or not, what is good and evil, what is just and unjust; who should live and who can be sacrificed in the interests of other preferences; leaving each step to chance, with no clear path, letting themselves be led by the whim of each moment.  These temptations are always lying in wait.  It is important not to give in to them because, in reality, they lead to something so evanescent, like an existence with no horizons, a liberty without God.  We, on the other hand, know well that we have been created free, in the image of God, precisely so that we might be in the forefront of the search for truth and goodness, responsible for our actions, not mere blind executives, but creative co-workers in the task of cultivating and beautifying the work of creation.  God is looking for a responsible interlocutor, someone who can dialogue with him and love him.  Through Christ we can truly succeed and, established in him, we give wings to our freedom.  Is this not the great reason for our joy?  Isn’t this the firm ground upon which to build the civilization of love and life, capable of humanizing all of us?

Dear friends: be prudent and wise, build your lives upon the firm foundation which is Christ.  This wisdom and prudence will guide your steps, nothing will make you fear and peace will reign in your hearts.  Then you will be blessed and happy and your happiness will influence others.  They will wonder what the secret of your life is and they will discover that the rock which underpins the entire building and upon which rests your whole existence is the very person of Christ, your friend, brother and Lord, the Son of God incarnate, who gives meaning to all the universe.

He died for us all, rising that we might have life, and now, from the throne of the Father, he accompanies all men and women, watching continually over each one of us.

As the ceremony came to a close with the city brushed in pink strokes from the setting sun, THE MOST AMAZING CHOIR I HAVE EVER, EVER HEARD sang Handle´sHallelujah Chorus…and I began to cry.  It sounded like a choir of angels, their voices rising in the open air up to the heavens.  I was overcome with emotion and wiped my tears as the Pope drove away.  I was proud, so proud to stand for Christ with a million others in the streets of Madrid.

Lord, walking with you does not mean always being on the mountain top.  But I thank you that you give us these moments to draw from for years to come.  May I never forget the clarity and joy that comes with such moments.  May I follow you with the same discipline and commitment when I find myself in the valleys.  May all of us respond to Your Word – not with nods of agreement, but steadfast dedication and a life changed for You.  Refine us all, Holy Spirit. Refine us.


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