Sunday, September 20, 2015

Off-the-cuff or profound?

“Much of the Pope’s off-the-cuff remarks came in response to the stories shared by young people present at the event . . . Pope Francis concluded with a call for the young people to ‘go against the current’ and follow the path of Christ, not being afraid to dream big and ‘make a mess’ . . . ‘Keep making noise,’ he said.” [Pope Francis off-the-cuff to young people: Don't waste your lives, Asunción, Paraguay, Catholic News Agency, 12th Jul 2015]

“Pope Francis said on Friday we must learn to not judge others or we all risk becoming hypocrites including the Pope himself. At the same time, he said, we need to have the courage to acknowledge our own faults in order to become merciful towards others. The Pope’s comments came during his homily on Friday (11th September) at the morning Mass in the Santa Marta residence.” [Pope Francis: We all, including me, risk becoming hypocrites, Vatican Radio, The Manila Times, 12th Sept 2015]

“Pope Francis’s homily was a reflection taken from St Paul’s teaching on mercy, forgiveness and the need to avoid judging others. He said the Lord speaks to us about the reward contained within this: Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned.

“The Holy Father began by reflecting on the first reading from St. Paul’s 1st Letter to Timothy, in which the apostle praises God’s mercy on him despite his sins . . . ‘I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry. I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief,’ St. Paul says.

“Commenting on the beauty of Paul’s words, the Holy Father explained that the first step in obtaining such humility is to accuse one’s self . . . ‘The courage to accuse yourself, before accusing the others,’ he said. ‘And Paul praises the Lord because He chose him and gives thanks ‘because He considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry. I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man’. But there was mercy.”

“That is why Jesus criticizes hypocrisy more than anything else. He does not hate sinners at all, but only people who pretend they are not sinners . . . Archaic religion and most of history of religion has almost always seen the shadow as the problem. What religion is about is getting rid of the shadow . . . This is the classic example of dealing with the symptom instead of the cause.” [Things hidden: scripture as spirituality, Richard Rohr, Franciscan Media, 2007, pp. 76-78]

“‘Take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.’ He does not deny that we should deal with evil, but you better do your own housecleaning first – in a most radical way . . . If we do not see our own ‘plank,’ it is inevitable that we will hate it elsewhere. 

“Jesus is not too interested in moral purity because he knows that any preoccupation with repressing the shadow does not lead us into personal transformation, empathy, compassion or patience, but invariably into one of two certain paths: denial or disguise, repression or hypocrisy. Isn’t that rather evident? Immature religion creates a high degree of ‘cognitively rigid’ people or very hateful and attacking people – and often both. It is almost our public image today, yet God’s goal is exactly the opposite.

“. . . Jesus is addressing the radical cause of evil and not the mere symptoms. As John the Baptist says of Jesus’ work, he ‘lays his axe to the root (radix) of the tree’ (Mathews 3:10). Most of us just keep trimming the branches and wonder why the same faults keep re-growing out of the trunk.”

“This creative tension seems to show itself as a necessary staging that we all have to go through. It is amazing to see that the three classic divisions of the Hebrew Scriptures (Law, Prophets, Wisdom) also parallel the normal development of spiritual consciousness and even human growth, which I will call (1) order, (2) criticism and (3) integration.” [Rohr, pp. 72-73]

“Clearly the easiest way to start, and the way that most people in history have, in fact, started, is with tradition, custom, law and order: ‘This is the way we do it.’ We see that taught very clearly early in the Bible, and would be the best way to start. Torah, or Law, provides ego structure, identity, exclusivity, boundaries, loyalty and necessary discipline to counter the imperial ego.

“Now if you think that is rebellious talk, it probably means you have not studied much of the second section of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Prophets or the birth of criticism. Without doubt, the prophetic canon has had the least influence on Catholic and Protestant theology, largely because we only read them insofar as they are offered as proof of texts for the coming of the Messiah. Yet they take up far too much room in the Bible just to be saying that.

“What we do see in the prophetic books is the clear emergence of critical consciousness and interior struggle in Israel . . . They have to leave their false innocence and naïve superiority behind and admit that they do not always live what they say they do at the level of ‘law’ or inside their idealized self-image.”

Does the exposition remind us of Padre Damaso? What about our own Philippine tradition and custom? For example, how do we define patriotism? For decades we assumed that to allow foreign direct investment was unpatriotic? Until we woke up one day and realized our neighbors have left us behind? That the road to authentic patriotism is to be questioning of one’s self – ourselves – and of our man-made laws and culture, including that of impunity, against the imperative of the rule of law? 

“Nothing can erase the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust. But modern Germany is the most powerful example of the idea that people can change, cultures can change, and that over time, redemption is possible, even for a nation soaked in blood.” [Germany’s road to redemption, Fareed Zakaria, Washington Post Writers Group, The Manila Times, 12th Sept 2015]

“. . . [W]e must be honest and admit that the only Absolute that the Bible ever promised us is Yahweh, and in relationship to Yahweh all else is indeed relative. No institution, not Israel itself, no priesthood, no kingship, no military might, no conceptual school of thought and no legal system was ever allowed to displace Yahweh as the ‘rock and solid fortress’ of Israel (Psalm 71). . . Although each one of them tried, and often did, replace Yahweh as the Central Reference Point, it is always called ‘idolatry’ by the prophets.” [Rohr, op. cit.]

“‘And Jesus uses that word that he only uses with those who are two-faced, with two minds: ‘Hypocrites! Hypocrite. Men and women who can’t learn how to acknowledge their own faults become hypocrites. All of them? All of them: starting from the Pope downwards: all of them. If a person isn’t able to acknowledge his or her faults and then says, if it’s necessary, who we should be telling things about other people, that person is not a Christian, is not part of this very beautiful work of reconciliation, peace-making, tenderness, goodness, forgiveness, generosity and mercy that Jesus Christ brought to us.” [Vatican Radio, op.cit.]

Off-the-cuff or profound, even theological, from Francis? “Who am I to judge?” [This posting was inspired by the visit of Pope Francis to the US; 22 – 27 Sept 2015.]

A Gift to New York, in Time for the Pope,” Larry Buchanan, David W. Dunlap and Josh Williams, The New York Times, 17th Sept 2015.Pope Francis, the fourth pontiff to visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral, will find it brighter, cleaner and in better repair than it has been for decades.”

“Archbishop John Hughes commissioned the cathedral from James Renwick Jr., the architect whose six-foot-high drawing of the west facade dates to 1853. Pope Francis’ pending visit prompted a quick wrap-up of the . . . restoration project. The cathedral was a masterpiece from the start . . . But the masterpiece had aged. The facade had absorbed so much soot, grime and pollution that the white marble was indistinguishable from the gray granite . . . An inspection of the facade by Building Conservation Associates, a preservation consulting firm, identified about 18,000 areas needing repair . . . But the impetus for finishing the job ahead of the December deadline can be summarized in two words: The pope.”

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