communal existence

During the past day, there has been a lot of speculation in the media about what Pope Francis said yesterday before the Wednesday General Audience: “I ask forgiveness for the scandals that have taken place both in Rome and in the Vatican.”

Since the Pope did not go on to speak about what those scandals were, most media sources have focused simply on the various sexual scandals. These are grievous, to be sure.

However, I think it is possible that the Pope was also speaking more broadly, including about the divisions that have become visible during the course of the Synod on the Family.

I think of what Father Thomas Dubay, S.M. once observed in a series of talks he gave entitled Community Transformed. In the fourth talk, “Communal Existence,” Father Dubay comments on what St. Paul said about divisions in the early Christian community. Here’s an excerpt:

A divided community… is worldly and immature, and it’s divided by sin.

I used to think… that when people are divided… about basic theological things – realities that God has revealed and the moral code and so on – that some people have pondered more than others or they are more intellectual or more intelligent or have a higher IQ and so therefore they’re divided and disagree with one another. I’ve changed my mind because of what the New Testament says and also realizing what’s involved here.

Let’s take a look at a couple of texts… and we will see that a divided community is indeed immature. At least somebody in it is immature.

1 Corinthians 3:1-3. In 1 Corinthians 1:10, Paul begins to talk about their divisions, and he can’t tolerate that they go on. They have to be healed. He’s still on the subject of their divisions when we get to chapter 3. And in verses 1 to 3, we read Paul saying this to them: “Brothers (sisters), I myself was unable to speak to you as people of the Spirit.” (Namely, the Holy Spirit… you’re not of the Holy Spirit… and I couldn’t talk to you as though you were because you weren’t.) “I treated you as sensual men.” Sensual here means worldly, or as Paul says it, “men of the flesh” which means not simply sexual sins… he’s talking more broadly. Their mind is of the spirit of this world. “And I treated you that way because you weren’t ready for anything more deep or lofty. You were still infants in Christ. What I fed you with was milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it, and indeed you still are not ready for it, since you are unspiritual.” (Meaning: you’re still worldly, Corinthians… at least many of you are.) And then he comes to explain how he knows that they are worldly and immature. “Isn’t that obvious,” says Paul, “from all the jealousy and wrangling that there is among you? From the way that you go on behaving like ordinary people? What could be more unspiritual (worldly) than your slogans: ‘I am for Paul, and I am for Apollos.’” In other words, Paul is saying: I know you’re worldly, I know you’re immature, I know that there is sin operating here… and how do I know it? You’re deeply divided.

Galatians 5:19-22. “When self indulgence is at work,” says Paul, “the results are obvious: fornication, gross indecency and sexual irresponsibility, idolatry and sorcery, feuds and wranglings, jealousy, bad temper, quarrels, disagreements, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and similar things.” That’s quite a list of sins. And they are whoppers, too. Now what I would like you to notice here is that in this list of serious sins – making all kinds of things into idols and rejecting the living God (idolatry, sorcery, sexual irresponsibility, drunkenness, orgies even) – in that list you’ve got two words: disagreements and factions. That’s shocking if you don’t realize the necessity of being of one mind and heart in marriage and in religious life and priesthood and all the rest of it. It’s very bad news. In other words, in that list of very serious sins are disagreements and factions about basic realities.

The whole Community Transformed series is well worth listening to, as it provides a great deal of wisdom about what the Gospel says about Christian life in community, whether that be marriage, religious life, a parish, or any other primary community.

It’s a good time to pray for the Synod on the Family. And why not step forward to adopt a bishop to pray for?

eleven years

wake in other waters

3:40 am
Hope, Idaho

Dad made his passage to the next life at 1:18 am this morning, with Mom, Katy & Jeff & I present. It was a peaceful, awe-inspiring time. His breaths became shorter and less pronounced, in the way that the lapping waves on the shore — after the wake of a passing ship — become less pronounced and then fade entirely. His ship is now creating a wake in other waters.

There is much I want to record about this sacred time. God bless, Dad. Thank you for everything — I love you. My prayers will keep me united with you — I promise to take care of Mom in whatever ways I can. Please God, we’ll all be together again before long.

Related posts:
learning to fear the right things
remembering Pops
on the passage through life
in gratitude for my Dad
seven years
the upset of Easter, and the last things

fidelity of our mother

mater-dolorosaOn the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows (September 15):

A garden dark and darker hearts
bring agony this day;
From Sunday palms to Friday whips
the passions wave astray;
He bears the tree with broken heart
upon the stony way.

With body raised, He hangs in pain
And very few will stay
To watch the life escape Him now
Instead they run away.

But someone stands beneath the Cross
to keep despair at bay
And Christ can smile before He dies:
He hears His mother pray.

no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness

Forgiveness is in no way opposed to justice, as if to forgive meant to overlook the need to right the wrong done. It is rather the fullness of justice, leading to that tranquility of order which is much more than a fragile and temporary cessation of hostilities, involving as it does the deepest healing of the wounds which fester in human hearts. Justice and forgiveness are both essential to such healing….

No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness: I shall not tire of repeating this warning to those who, for one reason or another, nourish feelings of hatred, a desire for revenge or the will to destroy.

On this World Day of Peace, may a more intense prayer rise from the hearts of all believers for the victims of terrorism, for their families so tragically stricken, for all the peoples who continue to be hurt and convulsed by terrorism and war. May the light of our prayer extend even to those who gravely offend God and man by these pitiless acts, that they may look into their hearts, see the evil of what they do, abandon all violent intentions, and seek forgiveness. In these troubled times, may the whole human family find true and lasting peace, born of the marriage of justice and mercy!

Pope Saint John Paul II
Message for World Day of Peace 2002