News & Events
You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God
Assembly of Western Catholic Bishops
St. Andrew's Cathedral
February 22, 2017
“This is what the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter celebrates—this leadership of how we are to proclaim this incredible, singular message: the Messiah, the Son of the living God, with all of the gifts necessary for salvation, and also for good living on this earth.”
~ Bishop Gary Gordon
It’s really nice to have all the Bishops here. They discovered Victoria about five years ago and they’ve been coming back ever since. One of the bishops even mentioned the possibility of retirement here, so I’ve invited them all to consider that as a possibility.
This Feast of the Chair of St. Peter is really a celebration of the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, the Petrine ministry, and I think it has certainly had many ups and downs over the many centuries of the Church. Each one of us as Bishops has been appointed, after careful consultation of the local Church and of the bishops in a region, to share that ministry in our apostolic witness in our particular diocese. One of the things that has struck me, that is at the heart of the Bishop of Rome, is staying true to that original profession of Peter.
You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
Last night, I was reflecting about the few popes that I’ve known: St. Pope John Paul II; Pope Benedict, who appointed me to Whitehorse; and now Pope Francis. Each, in his particular way, has invited me, as a bishop, all bishops, and the whole Church, to a focus on particular aspects of the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
I’m thinking particularly of Redemptor Hominis, in which St. Pope John Paul II outlined, in a way, his whole ministry. The Redeemer of Man. It was his first Encyclical, and is a tremendous exposé about who Jesus is in this particular time.
Pope Benedict, in Deus Caritas Est, God is Love, provided another deep revelation of the mystery of Jesus to the world, and what the Church is to reveal and teach through its bishops.
And Pope Francis, in Evangelii Gaudium, his Apostolic Exhortation, has invited us to another aspect of the Messiah, the Son of the living God. It’s how the Church must carry the message of the Jesus—the aspect of evangelization, of going forward, not being afraid.
Each of these Bishops of Rome, through these particular documents, has given us the face of Christ. Pope Francis invited us in the last year-and-a-half or so, to the face of Christ as mercy, and has given us an example. This is what the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter celebrates—this leadership of how we are to proclaim this incredible, singular message: the Messiah, the Son of the living God, with all of the gifts necessary for salvation, and also for good living on this earth.
I’d like to leave you with a little story, because I like telling stories!
When you’re named as a Bishop, part of the process is to journey to the diocese to which we’ve been named as successor of the Apostles, to have a little meet and greet with the staff, pastors, the people involved. We’ve all done it: it’s just to kind of say “Here I am!” and “What do I do?” and “Who are you?”
I was appointed to Whitehorse on Christmas Day, and I remember undertaking that journey in January. Now, I’m a kid from the Fraser Valley, and I had never breathed air that was –30! I was suffering considerably. We had a meeting with all of the folks involved in pastoral ministry there, and at lunchtime I thought, Well, I’d better get used to this, so I decided I’d go for a little walk.
So I did. Of course, I only had my West Coast gear for ‘winter’ weather, which was a rain jacket and a sweater. Somebody loaned me some gloves, so I ventured out. I didn’t have any boots, but there wasn’t too much snow on the ground. It was bitterly cold, and everybody was walking around all bundled up.
I started off, down the street, and I saw somebody coming towards me. I don’t know them, they’re just part of the public of Whitehorse, and not part of the pastoral staff. But very friendly! They said “Hi!” and I said “Hi!” And then they stopped, sort of blocking the sidewalk.
So I thought, OK, this isn’t Vancouver, maybe we’re supposed to have more of a conversation in Whitehorse. They must be more friendly. So they stopped, and I stopped because I couldn’t get by. This person’s looking at me. And then up came the mitted hand, right in my face. “You’re that new bishop or something!” I said, “Well—something.” And then the mitted hand came right at my nose. “Who do you think you are? You and your Church, telling us what to do?!”
I’m backing up. This is my first encounter with the general public in Whitehorse. I’m literally frozen. This never happened to me in the Archdiocese of Vancouver. So I kind of step back, and I’m looking at her. And then—and this where the Holy Spirit helped out—I just looked at this person and I said, “I’m not going to tell you what to do. The Church isn’t going to tell you what to do. But I am going to tell you about Jesus, and Jesus will put on your heart what you have to do.”
There was this frozen moment, and now this person is stepping closer to me. Face to face. I’m thinking, Oh Lord, what’s going to happen? Where am I?! This isn’t Chilliwack! Then they smiled. “You know, I like that answer. Thank you.” And off they went.
Turned out this person was a news reporter, and had been covering the story of the new bishop, and had already made up their mind about what their reaction was going to be. But that singular message, I’m going to tell you about Jesus, disarmed that. And within about six months, this individual was back in the Church, practicing the faith, getting connected.
I just leave you with that little story, because I think that is at the heart of apostolic work and ministry, and in every one of our Holy Fathers whom I’ve known, their Petrine office has been to invite us all to a refocusing on that singular message:
You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
The Assembly of Western Catholic Bishops