Worth Revisiting: Will They Know Us By Our Love?

Over the last few weeks since Pope Francis’ departure, there has been a noticeable divisiveness within the world of Catholic social media. From Ross Douthat’s letter of critique of Pope Francis in the New York Times, to the response of theologians, priests, and Douthat again- we see firsthand a visible polarization. Yet, disagreement and dialogue in and of itself should not be disturbing. For, as Cardinal Dolan has so aptly noted of the most recent synod, “[for] Francis, and those who know better tell me so, that this is part of Ignatian spirituality: a mess, confusion, questions are a good thing.” [1] What is personally disconcerting, however, is the manner in which our discourse is taking place.  Repeatedly, I am seeing a promulgation of an article, or op-ed piece posted on social media in which the dialogue takes on a very ugly, often misinformed and even discriminatory tone having left the realm of discussion altogether.  Quick to respond, we find ourselves at the ready to wage war or nod our heads in agreement when we do not even have a full grasp of the situation.  This is neither productive nor enlightening, which is as I understand it is the goal of honest dialogue. Accordingly, if I might suggest, that we remember in both our virtual and face-to-face conversations the importance of:

Prayer

Before we tweet, post, share or comment let us take a moment to pray. For, if we consider the medium of new media as a tool for evangelization, then I believe, we must address the witness that we are so ready to make accessible to others.  Our online presence then should make our witness to Christ clearer, and the message conveyed expressive of the mercy, love and compassion of our Lord.  Yet, for those times we fail, we are reminded that we are also a “church in constant need of forgiveness” who, through the “sacrifice and self giving” of one another in community, finds strength and freedom from sin.[2]

For those times when I seek to be less than compassionate in responding…Lord help me to see you in others.

Openness

Christianity began in encountering Jesus in community and is a product of dialogue and translation embracing cultural, linguistic and religious differences.[3] For, through St. Paul’s experience we are clearly made aware of the pastoral needs of the community, and the necessary translation in witnessing to the Gentile community. While there needs to be a clear idea of what it is we believe in our expression of Christianity, without error,[4]  this need not encumber dialogue. This past week Fr. Rob Ketchum observed that “we [Christians] are sometimes more aware of what we are against and of what we fear than of what we are for and what we love”. [5]   Fear does not engender strength, or a convincing witness and does not exemplify love. As Pope Francis so eloquently remarked, “unless we train ministers capable of warming people’s hearts, of walking with them in the night, of dialoguing with their hopes and disappointments, of mending their brokenness, what hope can we have for our present and future journey”?[5]

Listening

True listening requires a humility and sincerity to respect one another-to accept change even our own. Few among us embrace change easily and for this reason we tend to romanticize the past.  Yet, if we look back historically, we can readily identify that change and disagreement are nothing new for us as a people of faith. There has been a natural, although sometimes painful, working out of our faith through the many complicated issues that have arisen over time.  Our tradition serves as guide and witness to a wealth of experience expectantly working towards conversion and transformation of the heart and situation to the mission of Christ. If the dialogical engagement is real and substantial then there is always the beautiful possibility that all involved will grow.

When we encounter a position that is different from our own, are we truly seeking to meet it with love or with pride?

While some may view this as naiveté,  I truly believe, that there can be a fruitful sharing and transformation in evangelization when there is openness, humility, and prayerful consideration of one another. This isn’t something to be feared, but as Christians our conversion of heart and mind is to be constant turning and transformation to the Holy Spirit at work in our lives and in the world. Therefore, we ask ourselves, have we as a community grown from our interactions and dialogue with humanity at large? Are we engaging, and responsive to the Holy Spirit at work in the world? This I believe is truly “an ideal which [we] can identify and to which [we] can commit [our]selves with enthusiasm and lasting zeal”.[6]

Peace,

Signature


[1] http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2015/10/15/new-york-cardinal-dolan-sees-light-amid-the-synods-confusion/
[2]Kärkkäinen, Veli-Matti. An Introduction to Ecclesiology: Ecumenical, Historical and Global Perspectives. Downers  Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press: 2002, p. 105
[3] Gaillardetz, Ecclesiology for a Global Church: A People called and Sent.
[4] Pope Paul VI, Dei Verbum,  1965. http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html
[5] Reese, Thomas, “Pope Francis ecclesiology rooted in the Emmaeus story”. National Catholic Reporter. August 2013. http://ncronline.org/news/spirituality/pope-francis-ecclesiology-rooted-emmaus-story
[6] Gleeson, Brian, “Images, Understandings, and Models of the Church in History: An
Update”. Australian E-Journal of Theology, 12. ISSN 1448-6326. 2008

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