Just hours before cardinals from around the world made their solemn procession to the Sistine Chapel to begin the conclave, which will elect a new pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger warned cardinals not to be 'tossed with every wind of doctrine.'
He noted this morning in a Mass of preparation for the conclave that this trend “appears as the only attitude appropriate to modern times.”
The Mass, called the "pro eligendo Summo Pontifice," was celebrated in the presence of the 115 cardinal electors, cardinal non-electors, bishops, priests, male and female religious, and lay people present in Rome.
In his homily, Cardinal Ratzinger commented on the first reading from the prophet Isaiah, which says that the Messiah was sent to, "proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God."
The cardinal noted that, "we are called to promulgate - not only with words but with life and with the effective signs of the Sacraments - the year of the Lord's favor."
With reference to "the day of vengeance of our God," Cardinal Ratzinger said that, "the Lord offered an authentic commentary on these words with His death on the Cross."
"The mercy of Christ," he continued, "is not cut-rate grace, it does not presuppose that evil is something banal. Jesus bears all the weight of evil, all its destructive force, in His body and upon His soul. ... The day of vengeance and the year of the Lord's favor come together in the Paschal mystery, in Christ Who died and rose again.”
“This is the vengeance of God,” he said, that “He Himself, in the person of His Son, suffers for us."
The second reading, taken from the Letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul discusses "the measure of the fullness of Christ" to which "we are called in order to truly become adults in the faith. We must not remain children in the faith, without coming of age.”
“What does it mean to be children in faith?” the cardinal asked. “St. Paul says that it means being 'tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine.' A very pertinent description!"
"How many winds of doctrine”, he said, “have we known over the last few decades! How many ideological currents! How many schools of thought! The little ship bearing the thoughts of many Christians has frequently been shaken by these waves, thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertarianism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so on.”
“Every day”, Cardinal Ratzinger said, “new sects arise, and St. Paul's words concerning the deception of men and the cunning that leads into error come true.”
He said that, “Having a clear faith, according to the Creed of the Church, is often labeled as fundamentalism. While relativism, in other words allowing oneself to be 'tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine,' appears as the only attitude appropriate to modern times, a dictatorship of relativism is being formed, one that recognizes nothing as definitive and that has as its measure only the self and its desires.”
"We,” the cardinal reassured, “do have another measure: the Son of God, true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An 'adult' faith does not follow the waves of fashion and the latest novelties; an adult and mature faith is profoundly rooted in friendship with Christ.”
“We must bring this adult faith”, he said, “to maturity, to this faith we must lead Christ's flock. And it is this faith - faith alone - that creates unity and is realized in charity. ... In the measure in which we approach Christ, so truth and charity come together in our lives too."
Cardinal Ratzinger also noted the Gospel of St John, in which the Lord says: "No longer do I call you servants, ... but I have called you friends."
Christ, he said, "grants us His trust" and "entrusts His body, the Church, to us. He entrusts His truth to our weak minds and our weak hands. ... He has made us His friends. How do we respond?"
He called to mind Jesus’ words, which say, "I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide."
"We must feel animated by holy restlessness,” he said, “restlessness to bring everyone the gift of faith, of friendship with Christ. ... We received the faith in order to give it to others. We are priests to serve others, and we must bear a fruit that abides."
"The only thing that remains forever is the human soul, man created by God for eternity. The fruit that remains is, then, what we have sown in human souls, love and knowledge; the gesture capable of touching the heart; the word that opens the soul to the joy of the Lord. Let us go then and pray to the Lord that He help us bear fruit, a fruit that abides."
The Dean of the College of Cardinals concluded, "Let us now, above all, insistently pray to the Lord that, after the great gift of Pope John Paul II, He again gives us a pastor according to the dictates of His heart, a pastor to lead us to knowledge of Christ, to His love, to true joy."
Read the complete homily at: