By Seán-Patrick Lovett
On the outside, the Cathedral of Santa Maria La Antigua, in Panama City’s Old Town, looks just like what it is: an 18th century Spanish colonial-style church. On the inside, a major restoration and restyling blends elements in wood with red, black and white marble, to produce something completely new and contemporary. In the words of Pope Francis: “It no longer belongs only to the past, but it is a thing of beauty for the present”.
The Pope was at the Cathedral to celebrate Mass with priests, men and women religious, and members of lay movements, who had come from all over Central America, and beyond.
He was also there to consecrate the new altar, complete with its relics of four of the WYD patron saints: Oscar Romero, Rosa of Lima, Martin de Porres and, naturally, John Paul II. For nearly 1,000 years, altars were built over the tombs of saints and martyrs, so the inclusion of relics in them nowadays, is another sign of continuity.
Jesus beside the well
The Pope’s homily was based on the Gospel reading that describes Jesus’ wearily sitting beside the well and asking the Samaritan woman to give Him a drink of water.
Pope Francis focused on the theme of weariness in the lives of priests, consecrated men and women, and members of lay movements. The causes of this weariness, he said, range from long hours of work, to “relationships that lead to exhaustion and disappointment”, “from simple daily commitments, to burdensome routines”, “from predictable little problems, to stressful periods of pressure”.
All these situations, said the Pope, demand “a well from which we can set out once more”.
The weariness of hope
Pope Francis developed this theme into what he called, “the weariness of hope”. This is the weariness that “calls into question the energy, resources and viability of our mission in this changing and challenging world”, he said. And it paralyzes us. “What was meaningful and important in the past can now no longer seem valid”.
“The weariness of hope comes from seeing a Church wounded by sin”, he continued. And this, he warned, can open the door to the “heresy” of believing that “the Lord and our communities have nothing to say to the new world now being born”.
Quenching our thirst
Like Jesus at the well, said the Pope, we must have the courage to ask to quench our thirst. Asking our Lord to “give us to drink”, means finding the courage to “recapture the most authentic part of our founding charisms and to see how they can find expression today”.
It means trusting that, as God did yesterday, “He will still do tomorrow”.