When I first arrived in Ecuador in 2010, I spent most of my time in the rural countryside. There, you can't help but notice the mountains and the valleys…
Pope Francis shared a reflection about being missionary disciples recently, and some of his remarks resonated with the road I'm on, and on the general theme of "mission to the poor." So I got a little spark in me and expanded on them a bit to share some of my own thoughts, especially as it relates to Barriers To Bridges.
A Christian community – the Pope continued – shows that it is renewed in the Holy Spirit ...
Pope Francis, when asked why he is calling for a Jubilee Year of Mercy to being on December 8:
This is from Rome, with Pope Francis. Particularly wonderful are his words to the homeless:
Pope Francis, 2/18/15:
The littlest, the weakest, the poorest must make us tender: they have the “right” to have our soul and heart. Yes, they are our brothers and, as such, we must love and relate to them. When this happens, when the poor are as of our home, our Christian brotherhood itself takes on life. In fact, when Christians go to encounter the poor and the weak they do so not to obey an ideological program, but because the Lord’s word and example tell us that they are our brothers. This is the principle of the love of God and of all justice between men.
Pope Francis' homily yesterday. From my experience, it is true: mission to the marginalized is a scandal to so many church-goers! But "the way of the Church is precisely to leave her four walls behind and to go out in search of those who are distant, those essentially on the "outskirts" of life." ***************
For Jesus, what matters above all is reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick, restoring everyone to God’s family! And this is scandalous to some people!
Jesus is not afraid of this kind of scandal! He does not think of the closed-minded who are scandalized even by a work of healing, scandalized before any kind of openness, by any action outside of their mental and spiritual boxes, by any caress or sign of tenderness which does not fit into their usual thinking and their ritual purity. He wanted to reinstate the outcast, to save those outside the camp (cf. Jn 10).
There are two ways of thinking and of having faith: we can fear to lose the saved and we can want to save the lost. Even today it can happen that we stand at the crossroads of these two ways of thinking. The thinking of the doctors of the law, which would remove the danger by casting out the diseased person, and the thinking of God, who in his mercy embraces and accepts by reinstating him and turning evil into good, condemnation into salvation and exclusion into proclamation.
These two ways of thinking are present throughout the Church’s history: casting off and reinstating. Saint Paul, following the Lord’s command to bring the Gospel message to the ends of the earth (cf. Mt 28:19), caused scandal and met powerful resistance and great hostility, especially from those who demanded unconditional obedience to the Mosaic law, even on the part of converted pagans. Saint Peter, too, was bitterly criticized by the community when he entered the house of the pagan centurion Cornelius (cf. Acts 10).
The Church’s way, from the time of the Council of Jerusalem, has always always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement. This does not mean underestimating the dangers of letting wolves into the fold, but welcoming the repentant prodigal son; healing the wounds of sin with courage and determination; rolling up our sleeves and not standing by and watching passively the suffering of the world. The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for eternity; to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart. The way of the Church is precisely to leave her four walls behind and to go out in search of those who are distant, those essentially on the "outskirts" of life. It is to adopt fully God’s own approach, to follow the Master who said: "Those who are well have no need of the physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call, not the righteous but sinners" (Lk 5:31-32).
In healing the leper, Jesus does not harm the healthy. Rather, he frees them from fear. He does not endanger them, but gives them a brother. He does not devalue the law but instead values those for whom God gave the law. Indeed, Jesus frees the healthy from the temptation of the "older brother" (cf. Lk 15:11-32), the burden of envy and the grumbling of the labourers who bore "the burden of the day and the heat" (cf. Mt 20:1-16).
In a word: charity cannot be neutral, antiseptic, indifferent, lukewarm or impartial! Charity is infectious, it excites, it risks and it engages! For true charity is always unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous! (cf. 1 Cor 13). Charity is creative in finding the right words to speak to all those considered incurable and hence untouchable. Finding the right words… Contact is the language of genuine communication, the same endearing language which brought healing to the leper. How many healings can we perform if only we learn this language of contact! The leper, once cured, became a messenger of God’s love. The Gospel tells us that "he went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the word" (cf. Mk 1:45).
Dear new Cardinals, this is the "logic", the mind of Jesus, and this is the way of the Church. Not only to welcome and reinstate with evangelical courage all those who knock at our door, but to go out and seek, fearlessly and without prejudice, those who are distant, freely sharing what we ourselves freely received. "Whoever says: ‘I abide in [Christ]’, ought to walk just as he walked" (1 Jn 2:6). Total openness to serving others is our hallmark, it alone is our title of honour!
Pope Francis, today:
"If you are looking for God you won't find him sitting on a comfortable couch flicking through a magazine, or sitting at your computer. The search for God means having the courage to set out on a risky path, it means following our restless hearts."
Pope Francis, yesterday, visited Ecuadorians and Peruvians in the poor margins of Rome.
Pope Francis, from February 5 - "The Pope contemplated Jesus’ description of the attitude his disciples must have as he sends them out among the people. They must be people with no frills attached - “no food, no sack, no money in their belts" he tells them - because the Gospel, "must be proclaimed in poverty" as "salvation is not a theology of prosperity". It is purely and simply the "good news" of liberation brought to all who are oppressed:
"This is the mission of the Church: the Church that heals, that cares [for people]. I sometimes describe the Church as a field hospital. True, there are many wounded, how many wounded! How many people who need their wounds to be healed! This is the mission of the Church: to heal the wounded hearts, to open doors, to free [people], to say that God is good, God forgives all, that God is our Father, God is tender, that God is always waiting for us ... "
"It’s true, we have to help and create organizations that help in this: yes, because the Lord gives us the gifts for this. But when we forget this mission, forget poverty, forget the apostolic zeal and instead, place our hope in these [human] means, the Church slowly slips into becoming an NGO, it becomes a beautiful organization: Powerful, but not evangelical, because it lacks that spirit, that poverty, that power to heal".
Latin America is the “continent of hope”! ...She hopes in new ways of development which combine traditional Christianity and civil progress, justice and equity with reconciliation, scientific development and technology with human wisdom. Fruitful suffering with joyful hope. We can protect this hope only with great amounts of truth and mercy, the basis for all realities and revolutionary engines of an authentically new life.
-Pope Francis, from the Mass of Our Lady of Guadalupe, 12/12/14
From Facebook data, what each state is most thankful for: The 4 poorest: mercy, God's forgiveness, mercy, God's forgiveness The 4 richest: the beach, autumn, the ocean, a sound mind
"Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God ... But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation." (Lk 6)
The data team at Facebook analyzed the posts of English speakers in the United States, and they created a map of the most distinctive thing they found in each state.
Hoping to have the monthly update completed soon, I've been in transition and with running around for an apartment and car, it's been a little hectic! For now, here's a post from the Church's prayers from Saturday, it's from St John Chrysostom from maaaany years ago - but still relevant today! Enjoy! **************
From a homily on Matthew by Saint John Chrysostom, bishop
Do not adorn the church and ignore your afflicted brother
Do you want to honour Christ’s body? Then do not scorn him in his nakedness, nor honour him here in the church with silken garments while neglecting him outside where he is cold and naked. For he who said: This is my body, and made it so by his words, also said: You saw me hungry and did not feed me, and inasmuch as you did not do it for one of these, the least of my brothers, you did not do it for me. What we do here in the church requires a pure heart, not special garments; what we do outside requires great dedication. Let us learn, therefore, to be men of wisdom and to honour Christ as he desires. For a person being honoured finds greatest pleasure in the honour he desires, not in the honour we think best. Peter thought he was honouring Christ when he refused to let him wash his feet; but what Peter wanted was not truly an honour, quite the opposite! Give him the honour prescribed in his law by giving your riches to the poor. For God does not want golden vessels but golden hearts. Now, in saying this I am not forbidding you to make such gifts; I am only demanding that along with such gifts and before them you give alms. He accepts the former, but he is much more pleased with the latter. In the former, only the giver profits; in the latter, the recipient does too. A gift to the church may be taken as a form of ostentation, but an alms is pure kindness. Of what use is it to weigh down Christ’s table with golden cups, when he himself is dying of hunger? First, fill him when he is hungry; then use the means you have left to adorn his table. Will you have a golden cup made but not give a cup of water? What is the use of providing the table with cloths woven of gold thread, and not providing Christ himself with the clothes he needs? What profit is there in that? Tell me: If you were to see him lacking the necessary food but were to leave him in that state and merely surround his table with gold would he be grateful to you or rather would he not be angry? What if you were to see him clad in worn-out rags and stiff from the cold, and were to forget about clothing him and instead were to set up golden columns for him, saying that you were doing it in his honour? Would he not think he was being mocked and greatly insulted? Apply this also to Christ when he comes along the roads as a pilgrim, looking for shelter. You do not take him in as your guest, but you decorate floor and walls and the capitals of the pillars. You provide silver chains for the lamps, but you cannot bear even to look at him as he lies chained in prison. Once again, I am not forbidding you to supply these adornments; I am urging you to provide these other things as well, and indeed to provide them first. No one has ever been accused for not providing ornaments, but for those who neglect their neighbour a hell awaits with an inextinguishable fire and torment in the company of the demons. Do not, therefore, adorn the church and ignore your afflicted brother, for he is the most precious temple of all.
More from Pope Francis on mission, from today's ZENIT, the Pope's morning Mass:
“When the Lord wants to give us a mission, wants to give us a task, He prepares us. He prepares us to do it well, as he prepared Elijah. And the most important part of this is not that he has encountered the Lord: no, no, this is well enough. What is important is the whole journey by which we arrive at the mission the Lord entrusts to us. And this is the difference between the apostolic mission given us by the Lord, and a common task: ‘Ah, you have to complete this task, you have to do this or that…’ a human duty, honest, good… [But] when the Lord gives a mission, He always has us enter into a process, a process of purification, a process of discernment, a process of obedience, a process of prayer." And “the fidelity to this process,” Pope Francis continued, consists in “allowing ourselves to be led by the Lord.”
Pope Francis on being a pilgrim of faith:
A pilgrim is a person who makes himself poor and sets forth on a journey. Pilgrims set out intently toward a great and longed-for destination, and they live in the hope of a promise received. This was how Abraham lived, and this should be our spiritual attitude. We can never think ourselves self-sufficient, masters of our own lives. We cannot be content with remaining withdrawn, secure in our convictions. Before the mystery of God we are all poor. We realise that we must constantly be prepared to go out from ourselves, docile to God’s call and open to the future that he wishes to create for us.
A great commentary from Pope Francis on witness, from CNS, 4/4/14, that gets to the core of mission:
"The person who is sick or has a disability, precisely because of his or her fragility and limits, can become a witness of the encounter: the encounter with Christ who opens one to life and to faith; and the encounter with others, with the community," Pope Francis said.
"Only one who recognizes his own fragility, his own limits, can construct relationships that are fraternal and marked by solidarity in the church and in society," he said.
The key to being a trustworthy, effective witness to Jesus, he said, is first having had the experience of meeting Jesus.
"A witness to the Gospel is one who has encountered Jesus Christ, who knows him or, better, feels known by him, recognized, respected, loved and forgiven. This encounter has touched him deeply, has filled him with new joy and given his life new meaning," the pope said.