Aparecida 251: A Privileged Place

251. The Eucharist is the privileged place of the disciple’s encounter with Jesus Christ. With this sacrament, Jesus attracts us to himself and makes us enter into his dynamism toward God and toward neighbor. There is a close connection between the three dimensions of the Christian vocation: believing, celebrating, and living the mystery of Jesus Christ, so that Christian existence truly acquires a eucharistic form.

This aligns with my understanding of discipleship as described by evangelists both with and outside of the Roman Catholic tradition. Through evangelization, a seeker comes to initial faith–belief in God. (Something a bit beyond the acknowledgement of God.) Liturgy involves the gathering with other believers, and from there comes the inspiration to live as Jesus lived. When believers live as Jesus lived, they shoulder his mission and thus become true disciples.

In each Eucharist, Christians celebrate and take on the paschal mystery by participating in it. Therefore the faithful must live their faith in the centrality of the paschal mystery of Christ through the Eucharist, so that their whole life is increasingly eucharistic life. The Eucharist, inexhaustible source of the Christian vocation, is at the same time inextinguishable source of missionary drive. In it the Holy Spirit strengthens the identity of disciples, and awakens in them the firm intention of boldly proclaiming to others what they have heard and lived.

 

Certainly the Holy Spirit can impart grace to disciples and inspire them to live the mission of the Gospel, even outside of liturgy. As the liturgy makes the Paschal Mystery clear and present, there is ample opportunity for grace.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Pope Francis Address to CELAM 11: Hope Has A Young Face

In his address to his brother bishops of Latin America, Pope Francis reminds them–and us–that there are many competitors for the minds and hearts of young people..

In Latin America, hope has a young face

We often speak of young people and we often hear statistics about ours being the continent of the future.  Some point to supposed shortcomings and a lack of motivation on the part of the young, while others eye their value as potential consumers.  Others would enlist them in drug trafficking and violence.  Pay no attention to these caricatures of young people.

Aware of those who insist on pessimism, the Holy Father continues:

Look them in the eye and seek in them the courage of hope.  It is not true that they want to return to the past.  Make real room for them in your local Churches, invest time and resources in training them.  Offer them incisive and practical educational programs, and demand of them, as fathers demand of their children, that they use their gifts well.  Teach them the joy born of living life to the full, and not superficially.  Do not be content with the palaver and the proposals found in pastoral plans that never get put into practice.

I see some possible indictments who would choose to interpret the presence of absence of youth to accommodate their own desires and wishes. If we were serious about forming young people–and not just indoctrinating them–we would see the Spirit’s movements in their new initiatives. And that was happening in many good ways in the years immediately following Vatican II.

More on the choice for 2019’s World Youth Day:

I purposely chose Panama, the isthmus of this continent, as the site of the 2019 World Youth Day, which will propose the example of the Virgin Mary, who speaks of herself as a servant and is completely open to all that is asked of her (cf. Lk 1:38).  I am certain that in all young people there is hidden an “isthmus”, that in the heart of every young person there is a small strip of land which can serve as a path leading them to a future that God alone knows and holds for them.  It is our task us to present the young with lofty ideals and to encourage them to stake their lives on God, in imitation of the openness shown by Our Lady.

Comments?

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Aparecida 250: The Centrality of Liturgy

250. We encounter Jesus Christ in an admirable way in the Sacred Liturgy. In living it, celebrating the paschal mystery, Christ’s disciples delve deeper into the mysteries of the Kingdom and sacramentally express their vocation as disciples and missionaries. Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy shows us the place and function of the liturgy in the following of Christ, in the missionary action of Christians, in new life in Christ, and in the life of our peoples in Him.(Cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 7)

 

The liturgy isn’t the only way to encounter the Lord, but for most Christians in the long term, it may be the most reliable. If we attend carefully, we have a remembrance of the Paschal Mystery at every celebration of Mass. We might find ourselves drawn more deeply into the event of Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection.

It is important to remember that the potential for encounter is not totally dependent on the quality of the various aspects of worship. Still, when liturgy is celebrated with an eye to inspiring and urging discipleship, we might find our obstacles a bit more smoothed out, and our spirits a bit more uplifted for the mission of the Gospel.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Ecumenism For Dummies

Self-styled “faithful” Catholics ejected from church by police. What to say about it? I’m aware of the use of public prayer as a means of protest. I’m skeptical on it. I’m not sure I would label it a “profanation.” Boorish behavior, perhaps.

Observing the Reformation is a difficult thing for a lot of people. Still. Maybe that’s a good thing. People who are bothered might have good reason to feel that way. Christian unity, or lack thereof, should be a grave concern to all of us. Does disunity damage one’s status as saved? Does the hard line for or against Luther merit imitation?

This is pretty much lose-lose for the protesters. If there’s a hope that heretics will return to the Church, I’m not sure that rude behavior will inspire them to face=palm and ask, “How could we have been so blind these five centuries?” If it chases people away, Jesus’ words in Luke 17:1-2 might apply:

Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur. It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.

And that’s not good.

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Aparecida 249: Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina has held a privileged place for those seeking that encounter with God in the Scriptures. There is something of a revival in its practice these days. If a reader or two here have missed it, here is a word from the experts, the Benedictines.

249. Among the many ways of approaching sacred scripture, there is one privileged way to which we are all invited: Lectio divina or the practice of prayerful reading of sacred scripture. This prayerful reading, when well practiced, leads to the encounter with Jesus-Master, to the knowledge of the mystery of Jesus-Messiah, to communion with Jesus-Son of God, and to the testimony of Jesus-Lord of the Universe. With its four moments (reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation), prayerful reading fosters the personal encounter with Jesus Christ in the manner of so many figures in the Gospel: Nicodemus and his longing for eternal life (cf. Jn 3:1-21), the Samaritan woman and her yearning for true worship (cf. Jn 4:1-42), the man born blind and his desire for inner light (cf. Jn 9), Zacchaeus and his wish to be different (cf. Lk 19:1-10), and so forth. Thanks to this encounter, all of them were enlightened and recreated because they opened themselves to the experience of the mercy of the Father who offers himself through his Word of truth and life. They did not open their heart to something of the Messiah, but to the Messiah himself, route of growth in “maturity according to his fullness” (Eph 4:13), process of discipleship, of communion with brothers and sisters and commitment to society.

 

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Aparecida 248: More on the Bread of the Word

Bread has been basic to the human diet in most places for millennia. In speaking of the Word of God with that metaphor of food, let’s be mindful that the bishops here advise not only an intellectual or liturgical approach, but one that fosters relationship. We might exchange letters (or emails, I suppose) with a beloved. Communication allows a relationship to develop and deepen. It involves a conversation. If we treat the Scriptures as a one way street–information imparted to us–then we might fail to see the Bible as a place for discipleship. Just as we occasionally fail to deepen our friendships and our loves by various means of communication.

 

248. It thus becomes necessary to offer the Word of God to the faithful as gift of the Father for the encounter with Jesus Christ living, path of “authentic conversion and of renewed communion and solidarity” This proposal will mediate encounter with the Lord if the revealed Word contained in scripture is presented as source of evangelization. Disciples of Jesus yearn to be nourished with the bread of the Word: they want to have access to proper interpretation of the biblical texts, to use them as mediation of dialogue with Jesus, and that they be the soul of evangelization itself and of proclamation of Jesus to all. Hence, the importance of a “biblical ministry” understood as a biblical impetus to pastoral ministry, that it serve as school of interpretation or knowledge of the Word, of communion with Jesus, or prayer with the Word, and of inculturated evangelization or proclamation of the Word. This demands that bishops, priests, deacons, and lay ministers of the Word approach sacred scripture in a way that is not merely intellectual and instrumental, but with a heart “hungry to hear the Word of the Lord” (Amos 8:11).

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Pope Francis Address to CELAM 10: A Sacrament of Hope

Yet more from Pope Francis’ address to the bishops of Latin America. Hope is a difficult concept for many of us. Faith we often buttress with facts. We convince ourselves that God is real, and we Christians devote much to prove to others, and maybe especially ourselves, that God exists. Love might get confused with infatuation. But sometimes a seed is all God needs to work wonders–even for people outside Christianity there are great examples of love that might shame the timid among us Christians. Hope is difficult. We are given many reasons to shelve it.

A Church able to be a sacrament of hope

Many people decry a certain deficit of hope in today’s Latin America.  We cannot take part in their “moaning”, because we possess a hope from on high.  We know all too well that the Latin American heart has been taught by hope. As a Brazilian songwriter has said, “hope dances on the tightrope with an umbrella” (João Bosco, O Bêbado e a Equilibrista). 

Not an original image with the Holy Father, but one I can see coming from his lips or pen.

Once you think hope is gone, it returns where we least expect it.  Our people have learned that no disappointment can crush it.  It follows Christ in his meekness, even under the scourge.  It knows how to rest and wait for the dawn, trusting in victory, because – deep down – it knows that it does not belong completely to this world.

That unexpected return–certainly the Advent of Christ suggests it. We have to be prepared to look for it in stillness and not shut off the possibilities in our lives.

The Church in these lands is, without a doubt and in a special way, a sacrament of hope.  Still, there is a need to watch over how that hope takes concrete shape.  The loftier it is, the more it needs to be seen on the faces of those who possess it.  In asking you to keep watch over the expression of hope, I would now like to speak of some of its traits that are already visible in the Latin American Church.

A sacrament of hope. What does that mean? Mindful that a sacrament if an encounter with a personal Christ as well as an opportunity for grace, I can see how Pope Francis is encouraging his brother bishops to help shape it in the same way bishops are responsible for teaching and governance. We’ll get more specific in the posts ahead.

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