Amoris Laetitia 22: Comfort and Accompaniment

amoris laetitia memeRemember that Amoris Laetitia is online in pdf format here. Read ahead or back, as you wish.

We finish up our jolt of reality (paragraphs 19-22) with a thought from the final book of the Bible, looking to a time when the obstacles of life may lift:

22. In this brief review, we can see that the word of God is not a series of abstract ideas but rather a source of comfort and companionship for every family that experiences difficulties or suffering. For it shows them the goal of their journey, when God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more” (Rev 21:4).

The key point here is that Pope Francis does not see the Scriptures as a burden for the Christian life–quite the opposite. My sense is that many believers see it as a rule book. And it is that, but not only that. The serious believer will look for that comfort and accompaniment, expect to find it. And even demand it of God.

Perhaps it is a radical thought to set aside Matthew 19 or Mark 10 and look to passages that provide real hope for the journey.

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What A Difference A Year Makes

I was thinking US politics. Outsiders getting some heavy support. Losers in this election year will have good reason to take things pretty hard. Will any of them be good losers, too? And if not, what will happen?

I was thinking British soccer.

I was thinking my geographical location. My previous biggest move was 665 miles. Not only did the family and I traverse nearly 1800 miles, but we’re surrounded by mountains, trees, and salt water instead of a university, its students, and corn fields not far out of town.

On this site, three documents in progress, and now we’re down to one, and not much else getting posted.

Maybe some things don’t change all that much. I’m still getting used to living two time zones away. Deep down maybe I don’t like change as much as I hope I would.

At the student center, I used to see a great deal of change. Young adults have dramatic shifts in growth–even with their soap opera lives set aside. I read a nice note on fb last night from a student who is graduating–a young man with much talent, enthusiasm, and promise. He certainly has weathered much change.

My new parish has a lot more older people: parents, empty-nesters, and retirees than my last faith community. Is this also the end of big changes for me? The only significant American places farther away than where I am now are Hawaii and Alaska. And I don’t foresee opportunities there or abroad in my future.

When I was discerning spiritual direction studies a few years ago, I was pondering that the physical adventures of my life were likely coming to a close. If I were to approach new horizons, it would most likely be in the realm of the spiritual life. Great adventures wait there, to be sure.

For today, I’ll celebrate my young friends back in the Midwest who are embarking on a significant shift in their lives. I hope they enjoy it all. And look back in 2017 on what a difference a year has made.

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Amoris Laetitia 21: The Gospel Witness

amoris laetitia memePope Francis pours out several Gospel accounts, real-life or in parable, that witness to the Lord’s connection to and affection for the family in need:

21. Jesus himself was born into a modest family that soon had to flee to a foreign land. He visits the home of Peter, whose mother-in-law is ill (cf. Mk 1:30-31) and shows sympathy upon hearing of deaths in the homes of Jairus and Lazarus (cf. Mk 5:22-24, 35-43; Jn 11:1-44). He hears the desperate wailing of the widow of Nain for her dead son (cf. Lk 7:11-15) and heeds the plea of the father of an epileptic child in a small country town (cf. Mk 9:17-27). He goes to the homes of tax collectors like Matthew and Zacchaeus (cf. Mt 9:9-13; Lk 19:1-10), and speaks to sinners like the woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee (cf. Lk 7:36-50). Jesus knows the anxieties and tensions experienced by families and he weaves them into his parables: children who leave home to seek adventure (cf. Lk 15:11-32), or who prove troublesome (Mt 21:28-31) or fall prey to violence (Mk 12:1-9). He is also sensitive to the embarrassment caused by the lack of wine at a wedding feast (Jn 2:1-10), the failure of guests to come to a banquet (Mt 22:1-10), and the anxiety of a poor family over the loss of a coin (Lk 15:8-10).

I interpret this to be more than just a litany of Scripture passages for reflection, though it could be that. This is an aspect of “low christology” in which the Lord is very much aware of his earthly surroundings. Those surroundings are not irrelevant to his heart. The trials of human families, large or small, are not unknown to his mercy. Does that imply we should take hope and confidence from his gaze upon us? That’s how I would read it. What about you?

Check Amoris Laetitia online in pdf format for the full text of the document.

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Amoris Laetitia 20: Tales of Sin and Suffering

amoris laetitia memeRemember that Amoris Laetitia is online in pdf format here. We continue on the theme of suffering. The Holy Father’s biblical examples reference grave sin and a bit of the hand of the demonic:

20. This thread of suffering and bloodshed runs through numerous pages of the Bible, beginning with Cain’s murder of his brother Abel. We read of the disputes between the sons and the wives of the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the tragedies and violence marking the family of David, the family problems reflected in the story of Tobit and the bitter complaint of Job: “He has put my brethren far from me… my kinsfolk and my close friends have failed me… I am repulsive to my wife, loathsome to the sons of my own mother” (Job 19:13-14, 17).

Some have commented on the frequency of references to the devil in Pope Francis’s talks and writings. Tobit and Job were just, as presented initially, yet they were also beset by serious problems–caused by non-human forces intent on wreaking serious mischief. Or just an ornithological accident. Even unnatural consequences have an effect on otherwise just persons–irritability is one of the least of the subsequent sins.

Should such tales replace romantic stories of love, and serve as a caution for young couples? What do you think?

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Amoris Laetitia 19: A Path of Suffering and Blood

amoris laetitia memeRemember that Amoris Laetitia is online in pdf format here. With this post, we look at the start of a section titled “A path of suffering and blood,” paragraphs 19 through 22. Human beings are imperfect. Marriages and families will suffer:

19. The idyllic picture presented in Psalm 128 is not at odds with a bitter truth found throughout sacred Scripture, that is, the presence of pain, evil and violence that break up families and their communion of life and love. For good reason Christ’s teaching on marriage (cf. Mt 19:3-9) is inserted within a dispute about divorce. The word of God constantly testifies to that somber dimension already present at the beginning, when, through sin, the relationship of love and purity between man and woman turns into domination: “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen 3:16).

What is the purpose, then, of the preaching of the ideals of Psalm 128? Pope Francis suggests it is meant for encouragement, not to set an impossibly high bar. What do you think?


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Amoris Laetitia 18: Children Not Property

amoris laetitia memeIn paragraph 18, we come to the end of the subsection titled, “Your Children are as the Shoots  of an Olive Tree.” We continue on the theme of the previous paragraph. We are talking about responsibilities. Not rights. Not possession:

18. The Gospel goes on to remind us that children are not the property of a family, but have their own lives to lead. Jesus is a model of obedience to his earthly parents, placing himself under their charge (cf. Lk 2:51), but he also shows that children’s life decisions and their Christian vocation may demand a parting for the sake of the Kingdom of God (cf. Mt 10:34-37; Lk 9:5962). Jesus himself, at twelve years of age, tells Mary and Joseph that he has a greater mission to accomplish apart from his earthly family (cf. Lk 2:48-50). In this way, he shows the need for other, deeper bonds even within the family: “My mother and my brethren are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Lk 8:21). All the same, in the concern he shows for children – whom the societies of the ancient Near East viewed as subjects without particular rights and even as family property – Jesus goes so far as to present them as teachers, on account of their simple trust and spontaneity towards others. “Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:3-4).

I think these words show a proper balance for the child’s role in the family. By framing child-rearing in terms of the development of a person, we move away from human cultural constructs like power, authority, inheritance, class, and yes, even legal rights.

In my own experience as a parent, to speak of rights is to miss the larger point. Do I have rights over another person? I think not. Parents have responsibilities where young children are concerned. But as young people grow up, healthy relationships demand a certain evolution and progression to something different. The obedience of a child, for example, is properly placed in a context of the girl or boy’s sense of self-determination and life discernment. Otherwise, youth obedience to elders has no constructive context, except for the ego of the older generation or the possible suppression of the new.

Any readers have their observations about this passage?

Amoris Laetitia is online in pdf format here.

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Amoris Laetitia 17: Family Responsibilities

amoris laetitia memeRemember that Amoris Laetitia is online in pdf format here. If one paragraph a day is too slow a pace for your personal curiosity, go there to read in full.

Today, a short reminder about not rights, but responsibility:

17. Parents have a serious responsibility for this work of education, as the Biblical sages often remind us (cf. Prov 3:11-12; 6:20-22; 13:1; 22:15; 23:13-14; 29:17). Children, for their part, are called to accept and practice the commandment: “Honor your father and your mother” (Ex 20:12). Here the verb “to honor” has to do with the fulfilment of family and social commitments; these are not to be disregarded under the pretense of religious motives (cf. Mk 7:11-13). “Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and whoever glorifies his mother is like one who lays up treasure” (Sir 3:3-4).

Pope Francis frames the family as a community with mutual responsibilities. Do parents have a “right” to be obeyed? Some children are more capable of this than others. Do children have a “right” to good formation? Some parents have good intentions and yet they seem to provide less well than others. It doesn’t seem fair, but it is a reality of being human. We are not perfect.

The wisdom in this brief passage is the Holy Father’s focus on what a person can do for her or his family members. Instead of focusing on what is “owed,” the believer concentrates on personal commitments. This seems to make things simple and manageable.

Speaking for myself, I concentrate on providing for my wife and daughter, on loving them, on making their life easy, on giving them honor and respect. If they were totally inattentive to that, my responsibility would not change.

Any readers have their observations about this passage?

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