Saturday, 24 October 2015

Synod15: Christians must change continuously

Francis dolan

Today let us start with the homily that Pope Francis gave yesterday morning - the morning of the day when the Synod Fathers were reviewing the draft of the Synod's final report.
"We have this freedom of judging what happens outside us. But to judge we need to know well that which happens outside us. And how can we do that? Hon we do what the Church calls "knowing the signs of the times"? The times change. It is properly due to Christian wisdom to know these changes, know the different times and to know the signs of the times. What does one thing mean and what another. And to do this without fear, with freedom.

This is an effort that we typically don't make: we conform ourselves, we calm ourselves down with a "they told me, I heard, people say, I read ..." Like that we are clam ... But what is the truth? What is the message that the Lord wants to give me with that sign of the times? To understand the signs of the times, what is first of all needed is silence: to make silence and to observe. And then to reflect inside us. An example: why are there so many wars now. Why did something happen? And to pray ... Silence, reflection and prayer. Only like that can we understand the signs of the times, what Jesus wants to tell us.

The times change and we Christians must change continuously. We must change while being firm in our faith in Jesus Christ, firm in the truth of the Gospel, but our attitude must move continuously according to the signs of the times. We are free. We are free by the gift of freedom that Jesus Christ gave us. But it is our task to look at what happens inside us, to discern our feelings, our thoughts; and what happens outside us and to discern the signs of the times. With silence, with reflection and with prayer."
I hope they all read it before the day's work ...

Going back to the Synod, yesterday saw an extensive interview with Cardinal Schönborn, in which he was asked about implications of the proposal for the divorced and remarried made by the German language working group. In particular he was asked about whether being in a second, non-sacramental union is a permanent state of mortal sin:
"It is interesting to note that the teaching of the Church has already renounced speaking generically of mortal sin in these cases. At the beginning there is the mortal sin of adultery and often this is the case, if there is a sacramentally valid bond of marriage. But if with the passage of time a situation is created that involves also objective requirements, for example towards children born in the new union? Are they simply illegitimate children while having a Mom and a Dad? Of course, there remains the conflict between the sacramental obligation - if the marriage was valid - and the new union. But it can not simply be affirmed that the whole situation is of grave sin, because honoring the new reality and the new objective situations is also a demand of justice. Because of this, there is a need for such discernment that is able to look at the different realities of people.

The classic case is of the woman with young children abandoned by her husband. She can survive if she finds a man who is willing to welcome her and these children: it is not possible to speak simply of adultery because of a second marriage. There is also another reality of generosity and virtue in this new reality, which, however, is not sacramental. And here it is important to entrust oneself to the words of St. Thomas, and we have lived through a small conflict at the Synod between a radical Augustinianism and classical Thomism. Augustine in the "Civitas Dei" presents the idea that every act of the pagans is a vice, that there is no virtue in them. But Thomas refused this position with force and also the Fathers of the Church such as Clement of Alexandria and St. Maximus the Confessor spoke of the virtues of the pagans. The Bible itself does it with Job, a pagan ... St. Thomas explains: even though paganism is idolatry, in spite of it, pagans can perform truly virtuous acts.

Jesus is moved when faced with human suffering, as we read in the Gospels. And today Jesus embraces, and in this embrace of mercy the person feels loved and recognizes their own sin. With his catecheses last year, Pope Francis has given us a great lesson, they are so beautiful as to bring us to tears, because we learn about closeness to life, but with the eyes of the shepherd who does not coldly observe reality as a scientist or ideologist: it is truly the school of the shepherd."
Yesterday, the Anglican Bishop Tim Thornton wrote about his experience of being one of the fraternal delegates at the Synod:
"This is a pastoral synod. I struggle with the word pastoral as we so easily misuse it to mean being nice to people. I think pastoral means taking people seriously and attending to people. If that happens then how we react to them and what we do as a result of that attention will in its turn affect us.

So one of the core issues here is whether doctrine develops and if it does, does that mean change and how does the pastoral work, attending to people relate to the teaching of the church.

I think we ought in the Church of England to have something positive to say here about valuing every person and placing the incarnation at the centre of our theology and praxis. That does not mean we simply let people do what they want to do. But it does mean we pay attention to God and to people and we work in that impossible place in the middle holding on to insights from God and people as we strive to articulate what being human, loved children of God, mature disciples means in our daily lives."
In an interview yesterday, Cardinal Francesco Montenegro, the Archbishop of Agrigento, was asked about his reaction to Pope Francis' landmark speech last Saturday, to which he responded:
"The Pope has turned the pyramid on its head, with his Gospel perspective he is overturning many ways of being. These [worried] reactions [to the Pope's speech] are quite natural for me, one is disorientated. Some defend a past, some dream of a different future. I believe that a Romanian proverb says: when the caravan departs, the dogs bark. The fact that there are so many reactions is the sign that what he is proposing is something new and powerful. A bit like during the time of Saint Francis: we risked reliance on a structured Church, a faith that was a little easy, where I can please God with the little prayer and a little bit of charity. But the Pope is putting us in the street, he tells us to meet our brother when it would be more convenient for us to stop at the altar. He asks us to keep our eyes open as we pray. He explains to us that our Church, that we would like to have clean and untouched, must go out and maybe get a little dirty because it is in the street.

Once I said to Francis: Thank you because we can finally talk about the poor without becoming red in the face. Before we were almost ashamed. He is giving us a luminous image of the Church, even while wounded and dented. A Church of mercy, because those who hunger understand the hungry. A Church that lives insecurity and stands next to the least, those who have not yet come to the churches despite the slogans of the Council, because the boundary for the poor is precisely the front door of our churches. If they enter they disturb the liturgy, it is better for them to leave because they don't helps us to pray. The Pope tells us that if you want to give a true meaning to what we are and do, we need contact with the poor. Monsignor Tonino Bello said that the mutual acceptance of differences is not to feed the poor but to eat with the poor. Francis is telling us the Gospel, and we are amazed, when we should be telling him: we are living these things. He has no idea how many people tell me that they are back in the church and to the sacraments because they are touched by the Pope's witness."
As a parting gift, Pope Francis has today given a copy of Diego Fares' book "The scent of the pastor. Pope Francis' vision of the bishop." to all Synod Fathers ...