What Path?

In 2005 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was chief celebrant and homilist at the Mass prior to the start of the conclave to elect the predecessor of Pope St. John Paul the Great.  In his homily Cardinal Ratzinger spoke words that rang throughout the media: ‘We are building a dictatorship of relativism[1] . His homily was as profound as it was challenging; one priest, a so-called ‘catholic expert’ for a major Washington DC newspaper wrote ‘I think this homily shows he realizes he’s not going to be elected.[2]

As a sound-byte goes, the Cardinal’s comment was good; but what made this sound-byte profound and challenging was the whole sentence that it came from.  ‘We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.[3]

Solely of one’s own ego and desires[4] His message is as relevant today as in 2005, maybe more so; both in its universal dimension and, most importantly, in its personal dimension. It is essential that we habitually pause for a moment and interiorize his observation and reflect on how our faith-life measures up to his statement; because how we live our faith affects how the universal church acts and thus how she influences the world.

Our faith, our response to God’s revelation, is one of acceptance of Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life (cf. John 14:16).  As Catholics we accept that it is only through our Lord:

  • that we can find our way home;
  • that we understand there are absolute truths and they are imperative;
  • and, that we can gain eternal life with God Himself.

We accept this and we submit to living a life in pursuit and adherence to these realities; we submit to a loving obedience to He who can give these – indeed are these. At least that is what we should be doing; but, because of the effects of original sin, this is never easy to live out – we get in our own way.

Brothers and sisters, during this Lenten season let’s ask ourselves if we are actively trying to live the life that brings us to these truths; or are we allowing our own ego and desires to color our faith life?  Or, in the words of Pope Francis: ‘Am I on the path of life or on the path of lies?[5] One path builds a stronger church and thus a healthier world – the other path leads to a cacophony of disappointments and emptiness.


[1] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger 4/18/2005 Homily Misso pro eligendo Romano Pontifice.
[2] Fr. Richard McBrien The Washington Post 4/19/05
[3] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger 4/18/2005 Homily Misso pro eligendo Romano Pontifice.
[4] ibid
[5] Pope Francis Homily 2/25/2016