23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
In recent weeks I have found the continual battering Pope Francis has received, particularly from Clergy and Bishops and also some lay groups, one of the most unedifying things I have experienced in a reasonably long life in the Church.
I know, as do you all, that we desperately need to deal with situations in the Church that have led to so much pain and suffering, and we need to do it justly and with integrity and now not later!
But I am also aware that in a global Church the way the news is understood differs. Whilst the media has been occupied with the ex Nuncio to the USA, Archbishop Vigano's letter attacking the Pope, across the globe other issues also demand our heartfelt responses. The persecuted Church in the Middle East, the endemic poverty across swathes of our planet, the refugees harried and hustled, our poor plundered planet and its wildlife, so many species destroyed needs our drastic attention, now! So little time, so much urgency necessary to redress the destructive imbalance humans have created. The list goes on and on.
In my moods of gloom I keep reminding myself that the Lord called us not to do one thing or right one wrong but to go out and do many different things, the Good News comes in so many different ways. It is as the Prophet Isaiah puts it forcefully, to go out and:
"Strengthen hands that are feeble,
make firm knees that are weak,
Say to the fearful of heart:
Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
With divine recompense
he comes to save you." (Is 35:4-6)
That means that you and I are to move out of our introspection, lift up our eyes from the limits of the Institutional Church and gaze at the needs of the people of the kingdom, yes and the living creatures too!
The Kingdom is not the Institutional Church at any moment in time; it is far, far wider and deeper than that. The one word I keep coming across is that word 'listen', James writes to us about listening to the promises of God. There lies true obedience, listening to each other and to God, discerning together.
So, where are the voices of the powerful in any of this? Where is the leadership that can help us battle against unjust structures and badly thought out laws, that can help the oppressed challenge the institutional systems of power? We have been here before; the scriptures show us scenarios familiar enough.
What you and I must not do is rely too much on the systems of power, even in the Church, to help us get to grips with things, doesn't James tell us to beware of paying too much attention to the powerful. His words echo the constant teaching of Jesus: "Listen my beloved brothers and sisters. Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom that he promised to those who love him?' (Jas 2:5) Those who are truly poor in heart know well that the greatest gifts of the Spirit are three virtues, needed so badly; they are faith, hope and love! Hold firm to that, these are the gifts that will never dull or tarnish, they are gifts given to those who truly seek God. May we be such persons!
Fr Robin Gibbons is an Eastern Rite Chaplain for the Melkite Greek Catholics in Britain.
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