On the death of Pious XII after the tragedy of war the Cardinals of the Church could not decided who to elect as Pope.
They were hopelessly divided on the future direction of the Church.
There was simple no consensus so they decided to elect a place keeper someone who would maintain the status quo.
In the conclave they looked around the room and the chose Pope John the XXIII everyone loved him and the cardinals reasoned he’s old and heavy so he won’t last long and do any damage.
One thing they didn’t count on was the John XXIII was a holy man and listened to God.
To the surprise or shock of everyone, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Pope John felt compelled to call an ecumenical council of the church only the 21st in the History of the Church.
There was lots of opposition and he suffered greatly because of it but he saw it through and the Second Vatican Council was held.
While there are still some people who think it was a mistake.
Most believe that it was an incredible gift to the church
He was followed by a man who never ever wanted to be a Pope.
Paul VI was very introverted. Crowds of people made him nervous and frightened him. In public he was often awkward.
Imagine what it was like for him to face all those crowds day in and day out.
He looked around the world and saw the chaos of the 60s and was particularly concerned by the trend of separating human sexuality from responsibility and love.
He warned that this trend could lead to children not being cared for, an increase in divorce,, and women being treated as objects.
He wrote a document Called on Human Life which was prophetic and everything he foretold has happened but he was mocked as out of touch and many including priests publicly dissented from his teaching.
For a while it seemed like the Church was going come apart.
This very holy introverted theologian suffered greatly because he listened to God and proclaimed the truth. Some say he was relieved to go home to God.
Then the Church decided to chose another place taker. To the shock of everyone he chose the name John Paul I
A double name was never chosen before but what he was saying to the church was that he would have the gentleness of Pope John and the Theology of Pope Paul.
God was merciful to John Paul I he only lasted a couple of months as Pope and his heart gave out.
But by his choice of name he had made a bold statement to the church about the role of the Pope in the modern world.
So much so that when the Cardinals shocked the world and chose a Polish pope he chose the name John Paul II
We all know that John Paul II was instrumental in the fall of communism.
On his first trip to Poland 3 million poles turned out. There had never been that many Poles in one place before.
And when they looked around they saw how numerous they were and they dared to hope for change.
That’s when the Solidarity movement was formed and slowly but surely the iron curtain began to fall.
Eventually there were several attempts on his life and the attempt in St. Peter’s Square some attribute to the communist secret police.
Because of his teaching and travel many call him St. John Paul the Great.
At the end of his life though after Poland was free from communism and firmly in the Western sphere of influence. JPII lamented that the more Western and affluent the Poles became the more the churches and seminaries emptied out.
On his second to last trip he strongly expressed his heartbreak at the direction Poland was going a direction that he was instrumental in starting.
Benedict IV was also a older introverted gentleman. He loved his apartment his books, his cats and taking long walks around Rome.
For years he had been kind of the Papal doctrinal enforcer.
When he was elected some categorized him as an attack dog and called him the German Shepherd.
He did his best and he was more of a gentle old professor than an enforcer.
He trusted everyone and under him the Vatican Bureaucracy became divided and out of control.
He suffered greatly with the betrayal of some of his closest advisors who leaked private documents. He eventually pardoned all of them.
When he didn’t feel he could do it anymore to the shock of everyone he resigned in the interest of the church.
It was the first time it happened in 600 years and by doing so gave everyone who followed him permission to resign in the best interest in the church.
You all know about Pope Francis. His two main goals are to reform the central governance of the Church and He calls us to be more authentic followers of Christ.
He has many many critics and I am sure their comments hurt him but he remains faithful to his call.
The readings today speak about prophets.
In the first reading we hear how much the Prophet Jeremiah suffered in order to remain faithful God call.
In the Gospel Jesus calls on us to be faithful and not to worry about persecution or troubles arrive.
Each one of the Popes I mentioned was a prophet.
They listened to God and boldly proclaimed God’s truth and they suffered for it.
Two of them have already been declared saints and the others probably were too. Each man was sent at the right time for a specific purpose.
The role of a Prophet is not restricted to Popes or Priests or the leaders of the Church all of us are called to live prophetic lives no matter what the cost.
Some of your Moms and Dads were prophetic to you. That’s why you are still in these pews.
Today’s readings and the lives of the Popes I mentioned should cause us all to reflect on our own lives and ask ourselves have we been faithful to God’s call to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
Just looking around we all know in our hearts that the world is so in need of an authentic prophetic Church willing to proclaim the Gospel no matter what the cost.
Are we the prophets God so desperately needs us to be.
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