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Community and the Crisis of Commitment
In today's world more than ever we have to ask: is
what we are doing what God wants of us?
Within our communities such a question represents a great challenge especially within the Church which is there to proclaim the God revealed in Jesus Christ.
For this task what Francis (50)... would like to propose is something much more in the line of an evangelical discernment. It is the approach of a missionary disciple, an approach “nourished by the light and strength of the Holy Spirit”.
(51) We need to distinguish clearly what might be a fruit of the kingdom from what runs counter to God’s plan. This involves not only recognizing and discerning spirits, but also – and this is decisive – choosing movements of the spirit of good and rejecting those of the spirit of evil.
Even without being
pessimistic, we have to recognise that there are many problems facing
the world at large, as well as particular regions and groups of
Pope Francis identifies his priorities...
No to an economy of exclusion
When our economic systems keep some people permanently poor we have to say no.
(53) How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly home less person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?
This is a case of exclusion.
Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving?
This is a case of inequality.
Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless.
Then the poor find themselves literally outside society, the leftovers of an increasingly throw away culture. Nor should we be misled by the trickle-down theory. The wealth created by the rich will eventually find its way to the poor. There is no evidence to support this notion. Surely the poor would have disappeared by now!
Meanwhile, (54) the excluded are still waiting.
Rich lifestyles deaden our sense of awareness of the poor and suffering: a globalization of indifference has developed. We do not see the plight of our poor brothers and sisters as our responsibility.
No to the new idolatry of money
Its easy in our modern age to treat idol worship as something of a throwback to a dangerous religious past. However we have turned money into a modern idol, which rules our lives...
(55) One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies.The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person!
We have created new idols.
worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a
new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship
of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.
The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.
No to a financial system which rules rather than serves
warns of the danger in deifying money and the market. A market
without ethics makes people subservient to money, followers of a
Godless ideology. St John Chrysostom said “Not
to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to
take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold,
The true purpose of financial systems is to serve the needs of all mankind, promoting solidarity with the poor and vulnerable.
No to the inequality which spawns violence
(59) Today in many places we hear a call for greater security.
Usually from the better off who see the poor as a threat.
...But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence.
A society structured to promote consumption damages all elements of society both rich and poor.The poor and the marginalised cannot be blamed for their condition, when they face exploitation and corruption from the rich.
Some cultural challenges
Today we can no longer take for granted that a religious view point will be received sympathetically. Disillusionment and indifference with life in general have led to religion being seen as another threat to society.
(62) In the prevailing [global] culture, priority is given to the outward, the immediate, the visible, the quick, the superficial and the provisional.
In many countries this has meant a hastened deterioration of their own cultural roots and the invasion of ways of thinking and acting...[from] other cultures which are economically advanced but ethically debilitated. Media and communications are dominated by the Northern hemisphere.
(63) The Catholic faith of many peoples is nowadays being challenged by the proliferation of new religious movements. This can be experienced by our communities as a threat.
The challenge for us is to retain a sense of community, sustained by a lively faith in God who loves us. Ours must be a community which responds to the real needs of those who are not (yet?) (overtly?) seeking religion.
(64) The process of secularization tends to reduce the faith and the Church to the sphere of the private and personal.
The notion of moral norms applicable to all seems to be regarded in many quarters as opposed to basic human rights. In the days of 24 hour rolling news, twitter and facebook we are bombarded with data – all treated as being of equal importance –... and which leads to remarkable superficiality in the area of moral discernment.
In response, we need to provide an education which teaches critical thinking and encourages the development of mature moral values.
Paradoxically, in many countries the(65) Catholic Church is considered a credible institution by public opinion, and trusted for her solidarity and concern for those in greatest need.
Again and again, the Church has acted as a mediator in finding solutions to problems affecting peace, social harmony, the land, the defence of life, human and civil rights, and so forth.
This gives some hope that we can offer a model of family as (66) the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children.
(67) The individualism of our post-modern and globalized era favours a lifestyle which weakens the development and stability of personal relationships and distorts family bonds.
Our response is to make clear that our relationship with the Father demands and encourages a communion [fellowship] which heals, promotes and reinforces interpersonal bonds. We must... remain steadfast in our intention to respect others, to heal wounds, to build bridges, to strengthen relationships and to “bear one an other’s burdens” (Gal 6:2).
Challenges to inculturating the faith
The command of Jesus to his disciples was to go and make disciples of all nations. They started from the crossroads of the then known world. And clearly went out to engage with cultures quite different from those of their native Jerusalem.
(69) It is imperative to evangelise cultures in order to inculturate the Gospel.
St Paul identifying the statue of the unknown God as representing the Jesus whom he was preaching provides an early example of getting into the culture to bring it to an understanding of the living God.
Challenges from urban cultures
(71) It is curious that God’s revelation tells us that the fullness of humanity and of history is realized in a city [The New Jerusalem]....We need to look at our cities with a contemplative gaze, a gaze of faith which sees God dwelling in their homes, in their streets and squares.
Our cities are melting pots. New Ideas, lifestyles ways of interacting are all found there. Today (73) Christians are no longer the customary interpreters or generators of meaning.This challenges us to imagine innovative spaces and possibilities for prayer and communion [fellowship] which are more attractive and meaningful for city dwellers.
must also engage in dialogue as to the real needs of our cities, and
model to them the abundance of life offered by Christ through our
faith communities. And this in the face (75) of
human trafficking, the narcotics trade and the abuse of minors, the
abandonment of the elderly and infirm, and corruption and criminal
The proclamation of the Gospel will be a basis for restoring the dignity of human life in these contexts, for Jesus desires to pour out an abundance of life upon our cities (cf. Jn 10:10).
Pastoral workers face Challenges
Pope Francis recognises the difficulties that those who work to spread the Good News face a nd draws attention to them. But he does so in he context of the major contribution that they make.
Yes to the challenge of a missionary spirituality
Francis' seems to be recommending and almost “old fashioned” approach to pastoral work as a calling, rather that a career with a benefits package. A calling (vocation) driven by a faith conviction that leads them to a Christlike way of life.
No to selfishness and spiritual sloth
All Christians are called to be... (81) salt and light to the world. Such activity cannot be seen as an intrusion into personal free time. It has to be engaged in with enthusiam allowing the Lord to set the agenda and the pace. Remembering that our task is to respond to the Lord's call not to set out on our own.
No to a sterile pessimism
(84) The joy of the Gospel is such that it can not be taken away from us by anyone or anything (cf. Jn 16:22).The evils of our world – and those of the Church – must not be excuses for diminishing our commitment and our fervour. Let us look upon them as challenges which can help us to grow.
...John XXIII [said] on the memorable day of 11 October 1962: “At times we have to listen, much to our regret, to the voices of people who, though burning with zeal, lack a sense of discretion and measure. In this modern age they can see nothing but prevarication and ruin … We feel that we must disagree with those prophets of doom who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand."
His words are true today. Unless we adopt a glass half full rather than a glass half empty approach we will end in disillusion. If we feel that we are in a spiritual desert, we do well to remember that it was to the desert that many went to find a renewed strength.
(86) Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of hope!
Yes to the new relationships brought by Christ
Today,...Greater possibilities for
communication thus turn into
greater possibilities for encounter and solidarity for everyone.
The Christian ideal will always be a
summons to overcome suspicion, habitual mistrust,
of losing our privacy, all the defensive attitudes which today’s
world imposes on us...
True faith in the incarnate Son of God is inseparable from self-giving, from membership in the community, from service, from reconciliation with others.
Our challenge today is to respond to real needs avoiding spiritual window shopping and allowing our committed relationship with God to lead us into committed service to others: (91).. learning to find Jesus in the faces of others, in their voices, in their pleas.
(92) Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of community!
No to spiritual worldliness
It's not enough to be doing good works if we are not doing what God wants! This was the failing of the Pharisees. A sort of one-upman-ship in spiritual matters.
(94) A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to...elitism,...instead of evangelising, one analyses and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying. In neither case is one really concerned about Jesus Christ or others.
(96) We need to avoid it by making the Church constantly go out from herself, keeping her mission focused on Jesus Christ, and her commitment to the poor.
Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the Gospel!
No to warring among ourselves
The Gospel will never be heard if it is proclaimed by those who are at loggerheads with each other and fail to show any respect for their brothers and sisters in Christ. Our stance should be that of the early Christian community: it was their love, care and concern for each other which drew attention to them. (99)... “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35)...We are all in the same boat and headed to the same port!
(101) Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the ideal of fraternal love!
Other ecclesial challenges
Francis recognises that the majority of the Church's members are lay
people and that the clergy are there to serve them.
Although the laity are often relied on for their leadership, they have not always been welcome in the ministerial roles which are theirs through baptism and confirmation. Those involved in lay ministry are often impeded from involvement in decision-making.
Nor does this involvement always penetrate the social, political and economic sectors outside the church community, where the laity have the expertise and need support and encouragement in bringing the gospel values to bear.
Acknowledging (103)... the indispensable contribution which women make to society and that many women share pastoral responsibilities with priests Francis remarks that we need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church.
Whilst reiterating that the priesthood is reserved to males, Francis draws a distinction between function and dignity. The ordained have no more dignity than the non ordained.
(104) This presents a great challenge for pastors and theologians, who are in a position to recognize more fully what this entails with regard to the possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the Church’s life.
Youth Ministry is an area where the impact of social change requires a rethink in our traditional approaches as (105) The rise and growth of associations and movements mostly made up of young people can be seen as the work of the Holy Spirit, who blazes new trails to meet their expectations and their search for a deep spirituality and a more real sense of belonging.
have to be aware
community is called to evangelise and educate the young and a commitment is needed by the community to allow the …young
to exercise greater leadership.
Many places are experiencing a dearth of
the priesthood and consecrated life...
Wherever there is life, fervour and a desire to bring Christ to others, genuine vocations will arise. Even in parishes where priests are not particularly committed or joyful, the fraternal life and fervour of the community can awaken in the young a desire to consecrate themselves completely to God and to the preaching of the Gospel.
Despite the scarcity of candidates for priesthood, we must be careful in our selection process, We must seek only those who will be faithful to preaching the Gospel....
(108) Young people call us to renewed and expansive hope, for they represent new directions for humanity and open us up to the future, lest we cling to a nostalgia for structures and customs which are no longer life-giving in today’s world.
(109) Challenges exist to be overcome!
Having looked at the challenges , the "yes"es to affirm and the "no"es to avoid
Pope Francis next looks at the task of Proclaiming the Gospel