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Synod Fathers Set an Understanding Tone as Mid-Term Report is Published

Posted on October 14, 2014 at 8:47 AM Comments comments (1)
 
If I could sum up in one sentence what is contained in the Synod on Family Life’s mid-term report - as presented by the Synod’s General Reporter Cardinal Erdo - I would say: ‘Imitating the loving gaze of Christ to appreciate the difficulties experienced by many people and recognising the need to offer them companionship, in the hope that together we may experience the joy of the Gospel of the family.’
 
There are numerous reports circulating about the document, many of which are suggesting a significant change in tone with the possibility of changes in Church doctrine.  While there is no real possibility of the latter it is fair to say that there is a change in tone.  The tone is definitely more understanding with a focus on healing rather than condemnation, all the while adhering to traditional Church teaching.
 
Perhaps we should firstly set out the context of this report.  To give it its proper title, relation post disceptationem, the document seeks to summarise the discussions held at the Synod thus far.  The document will be agreed by the Synod in the days ahead and the intention is then that the document, which contains a number of reflections on the discussions, will be used to ‘raise questions and indicate perspectives that will have to be matured and made clearer by the reflection of the local Churches’ in the year between now and the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which will take place in October 2015.
 
The document covers many interesting topics around the central consideration of the synod; that of the family.  Divorce, homosexuality and contraception are but a few of the issues discussed and there are interesting reflections on all of these topics.  In this article we will consider the main points arising from the mid-term report and try to make sense of what is actually being said rather than going down the road of an over excitable tabloid reporter with the sole of intention of producing a headline grabbing story suggesting a sea change in Church doctrine.
 
Not to Condemn, but to Heal
 
In fleshing out the general theme of greater understanding, we can perhaps start with Cardinal Erdo’s opening comment when he spoke of how Jesus Christ, ‘the Truth, became incarnate in human fragility not to condemn it, but to heal it.’  He used the example of how Jesus taught that marriage was indissoluble but still showed understanding of those who didn’t live up to this ideal.  The crux of this is that we must work to help others to be healed and accompany them on their journey with the hope that they will come to full appreciation and acceptance of the Gospel of the family.
 
Indeed, one outcome of the first week’s discussions is to urgently address the need to more effectively proclaim the Gospel of the family.  The report states that the ‘Church has to carry this out with the tenderness of a mother and the clarity of a teacher’ and always bearing in mind the mercy of Christ.  It encourages all the faithful to spread this Good News stating ‘Evangelising is the shared responsibility of all God’s people, each according to his or her own ministry or charism.  Without the joyous testimonies of spouses and families, the announcement [of the Good News], even if correct, risks being misunderstood or submerged by the ocean of words that is a characteristic of our society.’
 
The report makes it clear that in proclaiming the Gospel of the family we must make known that it is a ‘joy that fills the hearts and lives, because in Christ we are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness, and loneliness’.  We are also encouraged to proclaim in a language that is meaningful and avoid simply ‘presenting a set of regulations’.  Rather, we are invited to put forward values that will address people’s real problems.
 
The Threat of Individualism
 
A significant threat expressed in the report is the threat of ‘exasperated individualism’ which the Synod suggests ‘distorts family bonds’.  This, according to the Synod, leads to isolation of the various components which make up the family unit which in turn leads to the ‘prevalence of an idea of the subject formed according to his or her own wishes, which are assumed as absolute’.  In a nutshell, there is a significant threat posed by narcissism and the modern ideal of individualism and selfishness.  This, the Synod suggests, is central to the modern day break up of the family unit.
 
In order to tackle this problem the Church, through this report, suggests a two pronged approach in supporting people in their search for God.  Firstly, it suggests making the teachings of the Church better known.  And secondly, this teaching should be accompanied by mercy.  In making this point the report refers to Jesus who ‘looked upon the women and the men he met with love and tenderness, accompanying their steps with patience and mercy, in proclaiming the demands of the Kingdom of God’. 
To be fair, this direction isn’t out of sync with current Church teaching though the benefit of reemphasising it at this time is obvious.
 
Marriage between One Man and One Woman
 
In turning to marriage the report refers to Jesus’ reaffirmation of the indissoluble union between a man and a woman.  It then states ‘God consecrates love between spouses and confirms its indissolubility, offering them help in living in fidelity and openness to life.  Therefore, the gaze of the Church turns not only to the couple, but to the family’.  Here we see the important link between marriage and the family.
 
The Synod did, however, acknowledge that new forms of union exist in our world and while the Church expresses ‘the value and consistency of natural marriage’ some members of the Synod have raised the possibility of ‘recognising positive elements in the imperfect forms’ of other unions.  For those who are in other forms of union, such as civil marriage or cohabitation, the report states that ‘the Church turns respectfully to those who participate in her life in an incomplete and imperfect way, appreciating the positive values they contain rather than their limitations and shortcomings’.  So, while Church doctrine on Christian marriage between one man and one woman isn’t going to change, the Church must increase its understanding of alternative forms of union and seek to find positives from them.  Indeed the Synod goes further to state that the Church must ‘accept the reality of civil marriage and also cohabitation’ while taking into account due differences between them and natural marriage.  However, this acceptance and understanding is always accompanied with the goal to bring such unions to the sacrament of marriage in the Church. 
The report states: ‘Indeed, when a union reaches a notable level of stability through a public bond, is characterised by deep affection, responsibility with regard to offspring, and capacity to withstand tests, it may be seen as a germ to be accompanied in development towards the sacrament of marriage’. 
So, while the Church will likely continue to recognise only one form of union, the faithful must appreciate those other forms of union where the qualities of stability, deep affection, strength in unity, and a responsible attitude with regard to children are present.
 
Marriage and Cohabitation
 
In considering the importance of marriage, the Synod focused on the Church becoming more deeply involved in Christian marriages, especially those in their infancy.  It suggests a greater involvement of the whole Christian community with respect to marriage preparation, including pastoral accompaniment in the form of more experienced couples.  It also suggests the importance of couples being ‘encouraged towards a fundamental welcome of the great gift of children’ and the importance of ‘family spirituality and prayer’. 
Further, the report suggests a move (where it doesn’t already exist) toward more ‘meaningful liturgies, devotional practices and the Eucharist celebrated for families’. 
 
While cohabitation remains an issue for the Church, the report sets out a clear understanding of the difficulties faced by couples such as financial difficulties.  While many couples simply reject the idea of Christian marriage, others wish for it but simply cannot afford to have it for one reason or another.  The Synod suggests pastoral accompaniment for such couples must start with the positive aspect that they desire a Christian marriage.
 
Separation and Divorce
 
Another significant issue is the separated, divorced, and the divorced who have remarried.  Firstly, the Synod has set out that ‘Each damaged family first of all should be listened to with respect and love, becoming companions on the journey as Christ did with the disciples on the road to Emmaus’.  It suggests such accompaniment must be at a steady and reassuring pace which reflects our ‘closeness and our compassionate gaze which also heals, liberates and encourages growth in the Christian life’.  It also states reassuringly that ‘What needs to be respected above all is the suffering of those who have endured separation and divorce unjustly’ and emphasises the need to avoid children becoming an ‘object’ to be fought over.
 
With respect to nullity a number of propositions were put forward by members of the Synod.  Among those put forward was the suggestion that the administrative responsibility for annulments could be under Diocesan Bishops and a proposed ‘summary process’ in the case of clear nullity.  All proposals will, of course, be considered in the months ahead but the report did state that in all cases with respect to annulment, the principal consideration is ‘ascertaining the truth over the validity of the obstacle’. 
 
The report states that ‘Divorced people who have not remarried should be invited to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their state’.  It then goes on to consider those who have been through divorce and remarried, saying such a situation ‘demands a careful discernment and an accompaniment full of respect, avoiding any language or behaviour that might make them feel discriminated against’.  In a reassurance to Catholic tradition the report then states: ‘For the Christian community looking after them [those who are divorced and remarried] is not a weakening of its faith and its testimony to the indissolubility of marriage, but rather it expresses precisely its charity in its caring’.  The suggestion here is that Church doctrine will not change on this issue but there is an undoubted call for the Church to provide respectful accompaniment and care to those affected.
 
In terms of divorced and remarried people sharing in the sacraments, the Synod members were in disagreement with a number of views being put forward.  However, the report suggests that ‘fruit of discernment’ could be applied on a case-by-case basis ‘according to the law of gradualness, that takes into consideration the distinction between state of sin, state of grace and the attenuating circumstances’.  The aim here would appear to be to provide the support necessary to allow divorced and remarried faithful to grow in holiness over time with the possibility of future participation in the sacraments.  This, however, is not set in stone and the report suggests that a greater theological study may be undertaken to consider this issue in more detail.
 
Homosexuality
 
Homosexuality is a subject well known to the Catholic Church, particularly in recent times with the advent of same-sex marriage.  However, before we set out the views of the Synod on this topic it is important to note that the Church has not given (nor will it give) any indication that doctrine is about to change on this issue.  Indeed the Synod has stated that ‘The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman’.  However, the report does state that ‘Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community’ and begs a number of questions to the Catholic faithful about how welcoming we are to people with same-sex attraction without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony.  The report also seeks to take positives from same-sex unions while clearly stating there are moral problems connected to such unions.  It states: ‘Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners’. 
 
The Synod’s discussions on homosexuality are perhaps worthy of the largest slice of our attention.  While there is no movement away from Church doctrine which states homosexuality as being ‘disordered’, there is a clear attempt to accentuate the potential positives which could be brought to bear by same-sex unions.  While it does not condone homosexual acts (as such acts close the sexual act to the gift of life), the Church appears to be acknowledging the support through sacrifice given by one partner to the other in same-sex unions.    
 
Perhaps this is a useful juncture to reinforce the Church’s views on homosexuality.  While homosexual acts are sinful there is no sin in same-sex attraction. The Church believes such tendencies towards same-sex attraction are a trial in the same way a single person lives a trial by being called to live a chaste life. 
 
The report then tackles the matter of children living with same-sex couples, stating that ‘The Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasising that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority’.  This is perhaps a suggestion that the sacraments will not be denied to children who live with same-sex couples.
 
Contraception
 
Contraception is a matter of great significance to the Church as the Church teaches that ‘being open to life is an intrinsic requirement of married love’.  Contraception in any form is therefore deemed to be contrary to the Will of God as it closes off the possibility of receiving God-given life.  With this in mind the Synod suggests that ‘what is required is a realistic language that is able to start from listening to people and acknowledging the beauty and truth of an unconditional opening to life as that which human life requires to be lived to its fullest’.  The report then continues, ‘it is on this base that we can rest an appropriate teaching regarding natural methods’.  The Synod then reinforces the message of Paul VI in his encyclical Humanae Vitae which ‘underlines the need to respect the dignity of the person in the moral evaluation of the methods of birth control’.
 
Sadly, I have already witnessed a considerable degree of misreporting on this section of the report.  It must be clear that the dignity of the person refers to humanity.  In this sense, the person we are speaking about is a potential new life.  So, birth control must be morally evaluated with the ideal of openness to new life at the core of any considerations.  It is not, as some media outlets have suggested, a call for the Church to respect the dignity of individuals using forms of birth control.  Contraception, in all its forms, will continue to be rejected by the Church.  The Church does, however, allow for Natural Family Planning as this method does not close off the possibility of life.  While it allows a couple to plan for pregnancy (and the Church allows for a certain degree of sensible planning with respect to the creation of new life) it is a method which is always open to the possibility of a child.  It never closes off that possibility and that is why the Synod has suggested that it should be taught more widely.
 
And so there we have it; the mid-term report of the Synod of Bishops on Family Life 2014.  The Synod will continue for a few more days and will then leave the issues raised to be considered by local Churches and faithful ahead of the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which will take place in October 2015.
 
While we need to take these matters into our hearts and minds and ponder them, no decisions will be made until October of next year at the earliest.  There is, therefore, a lot of work still to be done and the initial excitement surrounding this report must be balanced with patience and appreciation for the long process being embarked upon.  However, that does not mean we cannot start to implement the spirit of understanding which runs throughout the report.  This spirit of understanding must fuel our work in the months ahead and, while we must continue to adhere to the beautiful teachings of the Church, our desire to enlighten the world to Truth should be accompanied by a tone of mercy and compassion. 
 
As the report concludes: ‘the guidance of the Holy Spirit will lead us to find roads of truth and mercy for all’.  Amen.      
 
 
 

God's Invitation to Eternal Life with Him....to Accept or Reject? (Dwelling on the Word of God, Sunday 12th October 2014)

Posted on October 10, 2014 at 12:19 PM Comments comments (9)
 
From Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 22:1-14):
 
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people, ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a feast for his son’s wedding. He sent his servants to call those who had been invited, but they would not come. Next he sent some more servants. “Tell those who have been invited” he said “that I have my banquet all prepared, my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, everything is ready. Come to the wedding.” But they were not interested: one went off to his farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his servants, maltreated them and killed them. The king was furious. He despatched his troops, destroyed those murderers and burnt their town. Then he said to his servants, “The wedding is ready; but as those who were invited proved to be unworthy, go to the crossroads in the town and invite everyone you can find to the wedding.” So these servants went out on to the roads and collected together everyone they could find, bad and good alike; and the wedding hall was filled with guests. When the king came in to look at the guests he noticed one man who was not wearing a wedding garment, and said to him, “How did you get in here, my friend, without a wedding garment?” And the man was silent. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’
 
 
Scots Catholic's thoughts:
 
How many people are actually in heaven?  And how many people are actually in hell?  These are interesting questions and they are fraught with uncertainty.
 
The truth is no-one really knows how many people will get to heaven and how many will be destined for hell.  But what we can be certain of are the warnings given to us by Jesus himself, one of which is expressed in today’s Gospel.  He suggests that those who don’t abide by the protocol or abide by the rules are not entitled to join in the wedding celebrations.  The parallel we are invited to draw here is with heaven and our entitlement to get there.  Can we say we are fully prepared for heaven when death comes to us?  Do we abide by the rules?  Are we spiritually spotless?  Are we in a state of grace?  Will be given access to the Father’s home or will we be thrown out like the man in the Gospel? 
 
One thing we can be certain of is that we will be judged.  Jesus refers many times in his teachings to a final judgement.  A final judgement by the God of all, the God of the universe, the ultimate Creator!  It is not a judgement to treat indifferently or to take lightly.  Perhaps we should take some time out over the next few days to consider what we make of Jesus’ warnings and what they mean for us.  Perhaps we should consider just how ready we are for God.  We must remember that He is Love itself.  He is Joy itself.  He is everything we have ever dreamed of!  So we must prepare ourselves for that in the best way possible. 
 
Imagine preparing to meet your hero face to face.  Imagine you were a football fan and you were meeting Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi.  Imagine if you were a fan of the movies and you were going to sit down to a meal with George Clooney or Halle Berry.  Take this and multiply it a million times and you might get close to what you are likely to feel when you meet God!  And if you were about to share some time with the likes of Halle Berry or Lionel Messi, wouldn't you make sure your hair is nice and you look tip top?  Wouldn't you wear your finest clothes and set out to make the best impression possible?  Would't you be shouting it from the rooftops that you are going to spend some personal time with one of the stars?  Indeed you would!  And so it is with God.  Isn't He entitled to expect us to prepare ourselves to meet Him and to look our very best (both inside and out)? 
 
The Church, bestowed with Christ’s promise to guide it until the end of time, can lead us to that pure state we need so that we are ready to share in the perfect love that is the Blessed Trinity; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  The Trinity is our destiny, the Church is our route.
 
God has invited us to the wedding.  We must now choose whether to accept or reject His invitation.
    
 

Pope Francis asks for prayers aheead of Synod of Bishops

Posted on October 1, 2014 at 9:37 AM Comments comments (0)
 
Today, in his General Audience, Pope Francis asked for the prayers of the faithful for the Church's Synod of Bishops which will start on Sunday.  The Pope also spoke of the value of the gifts of the Holy Spirit which continue to be poured out on the Church and spoke of St Therese of Lisieux's deep love for the Church.
 
 

The Church's Mission Must be to Proclaim Forgiveness and Freedom

Posted on September 30, 2014 at 9:42 AM Comments comments (0)
Christ brings forgiveness and freedom
 
The Catholic Church, as Pope Francis has declared on many occasions, is a Church of mission and we Catholic people are all called to carry the Good News to the ends of the earth and to share it with all people.  And this mission, we are encouraged, must be without condition and without restriction.  Our mission is to share it with all people and to pray that the Holy Spirit will use our efforts to penetrate the hearts of those who hear it. 
 
But what will I say?  Where do I start in sharing the Good News?  These are relevant questions and there is no easy answer, but perhaps we should consider starting with forgiveness.  Jesus, by his death on the Cross, died for all people.  Not just the people of Jesus' time and not just Christian people.  No, Jesus died for ALL people. 
Yet, why did he die?  Well, he died to take away our sins.  Everything we do wrong in our life, every bad decision which results in us hurting someone, anything that isn't good, all of it is forgiven by Christ hanging on the Cross.  And this, I suggest, has to be our starting point.
 
Many people are afraid of God and afraid of Christianity because they think it brings judgement and condemnation.  They think Christianity frowns upon every tiny wrong move in life; that it brings too much expectation, too much pressure.  Yet, the opposite is true.  Christianity does not judge and does not condemn.  Rather, Christianity brings understanding and compassion.  Christianity brings a man, bruised and beaten, nailed to a Cross and dying.  Dying for you, dying for me.
 
And yes, this is very hard to accept.  Of course it is!  Could you imagine if Jesus was around today?  He would be called a fool and ridiculed.    
Jesus was ridiculed beyond compare.  Yet he kept going.  He was abused beyond compare.  Yet he kept going.  He had his hands and feet nailed to pieces of wood.  Yet he kept going.  
Why did Jesus keep going?  Simple.  Because he loves.  He loves us!  He even loved so much that he forgave all of those people who ridiculed him and abused him.  He even forgave those who put him to death.
 
Jesus understood that we are all sinful because he witnessed man's inhumanity to man at first hand.  Yet he had compassion for them.  This is why Christianity brings understanding.  This is why Christianity brings compassion. 
        
And while people feel Christianity expects too much of people, I would argue that Christianity, drilled right down, only expects one thing; to acknowledge that we do wrong.  And by acknowledging this, we turn to Christ to ask him to pour out some of that forgiveness he bought for us  on the Cross.
 
There is nothing Christ is not prepared to forgive; nothing.  And that must be central to our evangelisation.  It must be central to our sharing our faith with others.  And when Christ rose from the dead three days after his crucifixion, he paved the way for us to rise from the ashes of our wrongdoings and failings.  His suffering on the Cross is our suffering in sin; our suffering because of the bad things we do.  Yet we, like Christ, can rise from this suffering. 
 
Christ, through the Church and through the priest, can resurrect our lives by forgiving us in the sacrament of Confession.  He can drag us out of the darkness and bring us into the light.  When we go to Confession, our slate is wiped completely clean.  Completely clean!  We have no weight on our shoulders, no burden to carry.  We are completely free!
 
Money can buy us all the material goods and possessions we crave, and that may bring us happiness for a while.  But money cannot buy us true forgiveness.  It cannot wipe our slate clean.  Jesus, however, has the power to do this.  It is Jesus who makes all things new.  
 
And remember this, Jesus never ever holds a grudge.  If you tell him you did wrong he will forgive you and he will immediately forget all about it.  That is why we can confidently say our slate is wiped clean with Confession.  Everything we confess is wiped from the record.  It no longer exists.  We are free.
 
This, I would suggest, is the message we must take to the world.  A message of forgiveness and freedom.  Tell people that they are loved beyond compare and that there is nothing they have done that Christ isn't prepared to forgive.  
 
This is our mission.  
 
 
To read more on the sacrament of Confession and what it involves, please click here.   
 

What is the meaning of the Sign of the Cross?

Posted on August 8, 2014 at 9:12 AM Comments comments (0)
Through the Sign of the Cross we place ourselves under the protection of the Triune God.
At the beginning of the day, at the beginning of a prayer, but also at the beginning of important undertakings, a Christian makes the Sign of the Cross over himself and this starts his business “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.  We are surrounded on all sides by the Triune God calling upon him by name sanctifies the things we set out to do; it obtains blessings for us and strengthens us in difficulties and temptations.
 
(From the Catholic Youth Catechism)
 

We must be a faith of great joy as we anticipate the glory of heaven and unity with the Father (Dwelling on the Word of God, Sunday 13th July 2014)

Posted on July 11, 2014 at 7:36 AM Comments comments (46)
 
From Sunday’s second reading (Romans 8:18-23):
 
‘I think that what we suffer in this life can never be compared to the glory, as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us.’
 
 
All neatly wrapped up in a little bundle by the ever wise and Spirit infused St Paul these words quite beautifully sum up our faith.
 
Our faith is one of great joy as we anticipate the glory and splendour of unity with the Father in Heaven.  Yes, there will be difficult times and there will inevitably be suffering.  But this suffering will not be without reward.  Our Lord Jesus Christ didn’t die on the Cross so that we may have an easy life free from the trials of the world.  No, he died on the Cross so that we may share in the glory of the Father’s Kingdom. 
 
Jesus, by his Cross and Resurrection, has raised us to new life; to a life of great joy where suffering will be a thing of the past.
 
Our mission as people of God must be to bring this joyful message to the world.
 
Jesus loves us so much that he had nails driven into his body just so that the gates of Paradise and eternal life could be opened up for you and me!  How great is that love!
 

Good has conquered the world (Dwelling on the Word of God, Monday 2nd June 2014)

Posted on June 2, 2014 at 8:31 AM Comments comments (2)
From today’s Gospel (John 16:29-33):
 
‘In the world you will have trouble,
but be brave: I have conquered the world.’
 
 
Jesus, in today’s Gospel, gives us a stark reminder that we will encounter difficulties in our lives.  But he swiftly gives us the reassurance that he has conquered the world, so he wants us to be brave and not to lose hope or lose heart.  He wants us to know that, despite our difficulties, problems and fears, his death on the Cross and his Resurrection which followed has defeated evil.  Good has won, evil has lost.
 
As you go about your daily business, remember that Good has already been victorious.  That is fact.  We just need to pray that the Holy Spirit will penetrate our senses in order that we may experience this fact more clearly and live in the joy of God’s saving grace.
 

Where the Church is, Jesus is (Dwelling on the Word of God, Thursday 29th May 2014)

Posted on May 29, 2014 at 6:50 AM Comments comments (48)
 
From today’s Gospel (Matthew 28:16-20):
 
‘Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.  And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’
 
 
These words of Jesus must have been a great comfort to the disciples.  Not only does he give them specific instructions to convert all people and nations to the Christian faith, he also tells them that he will be with them to the end of time.  
 
Think of the disciples not only as a group of individual men, but as a body.  Together, they are a body.  Together, they are the Church!  And in this short passage, Jesus tells us that he will be with the Church until the end of time.
 
Through trials and tribulations, and through dark times, we must always remember that Jesus is with us, he is with his Church and he will never abandon it.  On this day of the Ascension, a Holy Day of obligation where all Catholic people must attend Holy Mass, take some time to ponder these words of Jesus.  And if you aren’t sure about whether or not you are really going to go to Mass today remember that where the Church is, Jesus is.
 

Pope Francis says the Holy Spirit brings young and old together

Posted on February 3, 2014 at 2:22 AM Comments comments (1)
 
From Pope Francis' homily on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (from news.va):
 
 
On Sunday, February 2nd, Pope Francis celebrated the 18th World Day for Consecrated Life highlighting the fact that at the centre of Consecrated Life there is always Jesus.

During his Homily at Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, the Pope recalled the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple which commemorates when Jesus and Mary brought the infant Jesus to the Temple forty days after his birth.

Please find below Vatican Radio's translation of the Pope's Homily:
The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple is also known as the Feast of the Encounter: the encounter between Jesus and his people. The liturgy tells of when Mary and Joseph brought their child to the Temple in Jerusalem; it is when the first encounter between Jesus and his people took place. This day is also called the Feast of Encounter because on it the New Testament, represented by the Baby Jesus, encountered the Old Testament, represented by Simeon and Anna.

He points out it was also a meeting between the young and the elderly: the young were Mary and Joseph with their infant, and the elders were Simeon and Anna, two characters who always attended the Temple.

We observe what the evangelist Luke tells us of them, as he describes them. He says four times that Our Lady and St Joseph wanted to do what was required by the law of the Lord (cf. Luke 2, 22.23.24.27). One perceives that Jesus' parents have the joy of observing the precepts of God, the joy of walking according to the law of the Lord! They are two newlyweds, they have just had their baby, and they are motivated by the desire to do what is prescribed. This is not an external fact; it is not just to feel right, no! It ' a strong desire, a deep desire, full of joy. That’s what the Psalm says: "I rejoice in following your statutes…. Your law is my delight (119, 14.77).

And what does St. Luke says of the elderly? He underlines, more than once, that they were guided by the Holy Spirit. He says Simeon was a righteous and devout man, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and that "the Holy Spirit was upon him" (2:25). He says that "the Holy Spirit had announced "that before dying he would see the Christ, the Messiah (v. 26); and finally he went to the Temple “moved by the Spirit “(v. 27). He says Anna was a “prophet” (v. 36), She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying" (v. 37). In short, these two elders are full of life! They are full of life because they are animated by the Holy Spirit, obedient to his action, sensitive to his calls...
And thus, this is the encounter between the Holy Family and the two representatives of the holy people of God. Jesus is at the centre. It is He who moves everything, who attracts all of them to the Temple, the house of his Father.

It is a meeting between young people who are full of joy in observing the Law of the Lord, and the elderly who are filled with joy for the action of the Holy Spirit. It is a unique encounter between observance and prophecy, where young people are the observers and the elderly are prophetic! In fact, if we think carefully, the desire to keep the Law is animated by the Spirit and the prophecy moves forward in the path traced by the Law. Who, more than Mary, is full of the Holy Spirit? Who better is docile than she to its action?

Dear Brothers and Sisters, in the light of this Gospel scene, let us look to consecrated life as an encounter with Christ: it is He who comes to us, led by Mary and Joseph, and we go towards Him guided by the Holy Spirit. But the centre is Him. He moves everything, He draws us to the Temple, to the Church, where we can meet Him, recognize Him, welcome Him, embrace Him.
Jesus comes to us in the Church through the foundational charism of an Institute: it is nice to think of our vocation in this way! Our encounter with Christ took its shape in the Church through the charism of one of its witnesses. This always amazes us and makes us give thanks.

And in the consecrated life we live the encounter between the young and the old, between observation and prophecy. Let’s not see these as two opposing realities! Let us rather allow the Holy Spirit to animate both of them, and a sign of this is joy: the joy of observing, of walking within a rule of life; the joy of being led by the Spirit, never unyielding, never closed, always open to voice of God that speaks, that opens, that leads us and invites us to go towards the horizon.
It's good for the elderly to communicate their wisdom to the young; and is good for the young people to gather this wealth of experience and wisdom, and to carry it forward, not so as to store it in a museum, but to bring it forward addressing the challenges of life, to carry it forward for the sake of respective religious orders and of the whole Church.

May the grace of this mystery, the mystery of the Encounter, enlighten us and comfort us in our journey. Amen.

Dwelling on the Word of God: Spreading the Good News (Monday 6th January 2013)

Posted on January 6, 2014 at 2:26 AM Comments comments (4)
 
From today's Gospel (Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25):
 
'He went round the whole of Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness among the people. His fame spread throughout Syria, and those who were suffering from diseases and painful complaints of one kind or another, the possessed, epileptics, the paralysed, were all brought to him, and he cured them. Large crowds followed him, coming from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judaea and Transjordania.'
 
 
I really don't need to tell you that the 'he' referred to in this passage is Jesus. 
 
Isn't it beautiful that he cures people of diseases and possessions?  Isn't it beautiful that he cures people of paralysis?  And this makes him famous! 
It's actually a bit like our world today isn't it?  People want hard evidence of something special - like a miracle - before they will believe and before fame can be attributed to someone.  They want to see it with their own eyes. 
 
So, not being around in Jesus' time we might well feel a little hard done by.  Why were we not afforded the opportunity to see Jesus work his miracles?  Why can't he just come to earth now and perform some miracles using the technology that is television to show himself and his miraculous power to the whole world?
 
These are all valid questions.  However, there are also perfectly valid answers.  The truth is...we have been afforded the opportunity to witness these miracles.  Our faith makes us witnesses.  We believe in the Good News of the Gospel and we believe every last word of it.  As Christians we have been blessed with the joy of faith and we must let other people know the Good News.  That is why we must be missionaries of the Gospel, as suggested by Pope Francis in his recent exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.  We must go out into the world and spread this joy; the joy of miracles which occured right here on earth.  The joy that these miracles continue to occur each and every day in the birth of children, the healing of a sick person, and, of course, in the Mass when we receive the body and blood of our Saviour; the miraculous gift that Jesus continues to give each and every day.
 
Tell people of this great joy!  Go, make yourself famous by spreading the Good News of the Gospel in the way you live your life and in what you say.  Allow the Holy Spirit to work miracles through you and let the light of faith shine brightly as you go about your daily life.  Never be afraid to talk about the Good News and never be afraid to tell people of the miracle that awaits them in the Holy Mass.