It is said that when St. Peter was first threatened with crucifixion in Rome that he fled the city and on his way he encountered the Risen Lord. Peter asked: "Quo Vado Domini?" (Where are you going, Lord?) Jesus responded, "To Rome to be crucified again." Peter mustered up the courage and returned to Rome where he was indeed crucified. The Lord had told Peter at the end of John's gospel: "...when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go. (John 21:18)"
Where are you going Lord? I, along with many fellow priests, ask this question ourselves when we don't know where the Lord is travelling because where he goes, like Peter, we have to follow. In the next verse of that passage above, Jesus tells Peter, "Follow me."
As I witnessed the extraordinary events in the Vatican yesterday as a humble Jesuit cardinal walked out to the loggia and to his people for a blessing, I smiled and kept thinking to myself, "Where are you taking us, Lord?" The first Latinamerican Pope, the first to be called Francis (my patron saint), and the first Jesuit (even the Jesuits that know me tell me that I'm a Jesuit at heart because I decided to become a priest during the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius). The cardinals chose a simple Argentinian man to do extraordinary things. It is said that no one wants the weight of the Papacy, and Pope Francis told the cardinals last night at dinner, "May God forgive you for what you've done." Remember Jesus told Peter that he would be led to where he did not want to go, but the Spirit pointed to this man at this moment. He is Peter. And the throngs of people in the square welcomed him, not because they knew him, but because he was the one chosen by God himself to lead His Church.
So where is the Lord taking us? Ah, that's the beauty of following Him and allowing the wind in our sails to be guided by the gentle breezes of the Holy Spirit. We don't know where we are going, but the reason I couldn't stop smiling last night and even this morning, is because of the excitement of knowing that a new day has dawned for the Church and that we are going to be led to new shores. It is the same smile I had 8 years ago when Benedict XVI appeared on that balcony, and the smile I have now knowing that a good, humble and gentle servant of the Lord is now steering the bark of St. Peter.