28. Dec, 2016

Opinion Piece: In Response to a Twitter Follower

Opinion Piece: In Response to a Twitter Follower

"The “door of faith” (Acts 14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church. It is possible to cross that threshold when the word of God is proclaimed and the heart allows itself to be shaped by transforming grace. To enter through that door is to set out on a journey that lasts a lifetime. It begins with baptism (cf. Rom 6:4), through which we can address God as Father, and it ends with the passage through death to eternal life, fruit of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, whose will it was, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, to draw those who believe in him into his own glory (cf. Jn 17:22)."

These words of hope and encouragement were given us by Pope Benedict for the year of faith. In one way or another, it is a constant teaching of the Church that through faith we enter into an exiting and living relationship with Jesus – the Word made flesh, and who is now eternally the risen Christ among us. And through the dialogue of our life with the Word of God we bear much fruit, our faith deepens, our love grows, our hope increases and we become more and more sharers in the divine nature.

In the Gospel of John one analogy of this life-giving relationship with Jesus, is belonging to the vine.

"Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned” John 15:4-6

All I am saying (i.e., referring to my tweet) is that it is possible to read into Amoris Laetitia a discipline allowing what is contrary to faith. Hence Amoris Laetitia becomes a lifeless branch (see my splendid drawing!) that will of its own accord, separate itself from God. I do not think this is true, however clarification is needed. One of my other tweets read “Catholics not to worry about the fight against sin and/or not to believe teaching about receiving sacraments? I'm in #dubia needing clarity.”

Tradition, arising from Scripture and a lived relationship with Christ and his Body, encourages us to try our best to fight against personal sin and to respect the sacraments. The Eucharist is our prize sacrament, being the source and summit of Church life. The hot issue revolves around receiving communion and the state of the recipient. The teaching has been that if someone is seriously estranged from God due to serious sin, they should abstain from communion.

Amoris Laetitia is utterly commendable in its pastoral intent. I get that the Eucharist is food for sinners (like me). However, it is document that presents particular difficulties for priests in the sections that reflect on how pastors are to accompany Catholics, in our complex world. For example, in some cases it is extraordinarily difficult to accompany people who come to receive the sacrament of reconciliation, Christian initiation (RCIA), or marriage preparation who are not resolved to live in accordance with the Gospels.

Pope Francis rightly wants pastors to be merciful, reflecting Gods merciful love: “Mercy is the concrete action of God’s love that, by forgiving, transforms and changes our lives” (Twitter).

In Amoris Laetitia the solution to pastoral issues seems to be priests need to be instruments of God’s mercy. However, it is just not clear to me what I should do, and the reasoning behind it – hence my doubt (dubia). I like the idea of gradualism (just as I like Irenaeus’ idea that humanities fall was due to immaturity). However, recognising that the life of faith doesn’t happen all at once, doesn’t mean that it is appropriate to endorse a lifestyle contrary to the Gospels. This concern is reflected in another tweet of mine referring to John 8:11. The Lord of mercy says to the adulterous women: “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” This is very pastoral, and there is not one ounce of dubia as to what is required of the woman.”

There you have it. Does Amoris Laetitia call us to put our trust in Jesus and his sacraments (according to what is traditionally taught about them), or does Amoris Laetitia call us to place our trust in our own resources? This poignant at Christmas as we hear the echo of the Lord who says again to his Church "If you will not take your stand on me, you will not stand firm." Isaiah 7:9

NOTE: Unfortunately, I like many of you, have not fully read Amoris Laetitia. That may be the problem in itself!