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Dear Parish Family,

The number one movie on Netflix this week is called, Project Power. An action thriller of good guys versus bad guys, with a glowing pill at the center that enables those who take it to activate a mystery superpower in their own DNA, for five minutes. In the movie, the Major, played by Jamie Foxx, makes the assertion that all power runs to those who have power. In a sense, the powerful always accumulate more power. Those taking the pills - while experiencing a superpower - are ultimately ceding more power to those who are already in power. Today we consider power and its sources.

Also this week, the Democrats held a virtual convention to nominate Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris to be candidates for President and Vice-President, respectively. The presidency of the United States of America is often called the most powerful office in the world. Enshrined in the Constitution is a balance of powers: executive, legislative and judicial. Regardless of party, stalemates in congress have led the executive branch to accumulate power. Ultimately, the power resides with the people. We are a democracy, meaning government by the people, and a republic, meaning we choose others to represent us. When we want to effect change, we vote, we lobby, we write our congresspeople, we may even assemble and march in the streets, but we do not loot or riot or resort to violence. The people give the government its power.

Another line from a well-known superhero movie rises to the surface:“With great power comes great responsibility.” True for Peter Parker and true for us. Thanks Uncle Ben! It may not seem that the power is held by the people, and some leaders would prefer us not to remember whence their power derives, still it is wise to remain aware that the source of the power resides with the people. Sadly, the silent voice of the great majority who think the looting, riots and violence must stop has not been heard. How does that other line go? “The only thing necessary for tyranny to thrive is for the good to do nothing,” something like that.

Our Gospel this weekend recounts the moment when Peter - guided by the Spirit from the hand of our heavenly Father - makes a beautiful confession of faith: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Based on this beautiful confession, Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter (for rock) and declares, “upon this rock, I will build my church,” and he entrusts to Peter the power of the keys: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The keys are the authority that corresponds to the office. And the keys shall be passed from one officeholder to the next. Peter and his successors constitute the papacy, the chief shepherd of the flock and the vicar of Christ on earth.

In this case, the source of power is the Holy Trinity. “For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father,” Jesus declares. The Church is not a democracy, but an institution founded by Christ on Peter the Rock. Sometimes those who are so accustomed to democracy make the error of thinking all higher institutions are thus. But we do not choose our pope, bishops, or pastors. We believe that the Holy Spirit has the role to guide these decisions with wisdom and discernment.

The role of the people in the Body of Christ, the Church, is to be radiant examples of virtue and holiness, to pray for our leaders, and when there is an issue to make genuine concerns known. During this pandemic, I have struggled to connect with our parish family, with the people. Gathering is inherent in the Catholic way yet it is forbidden right now by civil authority. But I have felt your prayers and support, and I thank you for the many ways you are showing our little corner of the world what it means to be Catholic.

“With great power comes great responsibility.” We have been given so much! Both in the church as Catholics blessed with so much grace, and in the world, as citizens of this great land. it is time to let our little light shine! Yours humbly,

Fr. Joel Wilson

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