Pope Francis’ post-synodal exhortation utilizes four paragraphs to look at liturgical inculturation. Here is the last, where we are reminded that the sacraments are designed to bring people nearer to God:
84. The sacraments reveal and communicate the God who is close and who comes with mercy to heal and strengthen his children. Consequently, they should be accessible, especially for the poor, and must never be refused for financial reasons. Nor is there room, in the presence of the poor and forgotten of the Amazon region, for a discipline that excludes and turns people away, for in that way they end up being discarded by a Church that has become a toll-house. Rather, “in such difficult situations of need, the Church must be particularly concerned to offer understanding, comfort and acceptance, rather than imposing straightaway a set of rules that only lead people to feel judged and abandoned by the very Mother called to show them God’s mercy”.[Amoris Laetitia 49, cf. Laudato Si’ 305]
These are not new themes to Pope Francis. The Church is big enough, rich enough (and I don’t mean financially), and generous enough to offer the sacraments accessibly. It is not just poor persons who are turned away. Exclusion can happen to the well-off, especially if they have previously chosen not to associate much with the in-crowd.
We continue to hear a lot of about mercy. It wasn’t an idea that originated with this pope or his second predecessor. It goes to Jesus and is something better acted upon than parroted:
For the Church, mercy can become a mere sentimental catchword unless it finds concrete expression in her pastoral outreach.[Cf. ibid., 296, 308]
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