Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin. (Heb 2:11)
I was blessed in having both at School and University with good teachers of Religion and Theology, people who allowed us to discuss, who didn't parrot out a particular way or 'brand' of thinking but allowed one to search, look into, investigate aspects of religious belief in an environment that was measured and respectful.
The most freeing moment came when I discovered the great ways of examining the Scriptures; I owe a huge debt to those who opened that door of understanding in my life!
It's because I sense faith is a continual journey that I feel saddened (and annoyed) at hard comments from a few, very vocal, committed Christians concerning faith and practice, including conspiracy theorists who peddle outlandish ideas which seem to be everywhere in the religious media, but I am not going to let these noises of discontent and gloom take hold of my own faith. I'm following the Synod on Young People (Oct 3-28th) with interest, not because of the Bishops but because of the auditors who include young people and women, I want to listen to what they are telling the Church, because I want to learn.
It's already interesting to note that what these auditors say is reported in the media, but what the bishops discuss is often held back. It may be a practical way of dealing with issues, it is a Synod of Bishops after all, but instinctively I don't like that method of dealing with things, if there is one lesson I am learning from my young students and family members, it's that transparency is important and any closed shop mentality in the Church has got to go! Authenticity may be a much misused word, but that's the call I sense in the Church today, be authentic, be true to Christ, be open to the Spirit who blows where it wills. That involves risk because it opens us up to what we also don't know, but perhaps that is good because it calls us back from certainty in our own cherished ideas to the wisdom of God found in engagement and discernment with others.
The scriptures this Sunday seem very appropriate for a real rethink of the way in which we approach faith. Truly wise people recognise that youth and age are not enemies but belong in harmony, tellingly St Benedict encourages the monastic community to listen to the voice of everybody, even the young, in decision making. He writes;"The reason why we have said all should be called for counsel is that the Lord often reveals what is better to the younger". (RSB Chapter 3) This is not a negative remark about the elders because they too have the wisdom and insight we hope essential to interpret the young's thoughts and ideas.
And so it is with the Scriptures today, the historical context tells us that the words of Jesus about divorce are freedom making, given the subjugation of women in his time, the involvement of Children as a point of reference is a deliberate attempt to shock the disciples into realising God does not have favourites, no one group can claim headship over others, only God. "Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child* will not enter it."(Mk 10:15)
Younger members of my own family and church have different attitude to sex and sexuality than I did, so hearing them I begin to understand what Jesus is doing is really trying to reconnect us and allow us the freedom to examine issues carefully. In the end it is about belonging to God. "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus". (Gal 3: 28) That should be our starting point for thought; it should also be a strong reminder as Karl Barth wrote, "Jesus does not give recipes that show the way to God as other teachers of religion do. He is Himself the way"!
"This much is certain, that we have no theological right to set any sort of limits to the loving-kindness of God which has appeared in Jesus Christ. Our theological duty is to see and understand it as being still greater than we had seen before." Karl Barth, The Humanity of God
OF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI
30 September 2010
God's word transcends cultural limits
116. The synodal assembly, in its discussion of the relationship between God's word and cultures, felt the need to reaffirm something that the earliest Christians had experienced beginning on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-2). The word of God is capable of entering into and finding expression in various cultures and languages, yet that same word overcomes the limits of individual cultures to create fellowship between different peoples. The Lord's word summons us to advance towards an ever more vast communion.
"We escape the limitations of our experience and we enter into the reality that is truly universal. Entering into communion with the word of God, we enter into the communion of the Church which lives the word of God. … It means going beyond the limits of the individual cultures into the universality that connects all, unites all, makes us all brothers and sisters".
The proclamation of God's work thus always demands, of us in the first place, a new exodus, as we leave behind our own limited standards and imaginations in order to make room for the presence of Christ.
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