A Reflection on a Reflection

Zenit posted this reflection by Pope Benedict, and it really spoke to me. So, I’m putting it out there, along with my own commentary, 🙂 so that our shepherd can feed you spiritually, as well. 🙂

Pope Leads Roman Priests in Scripture Reflection

 Considers Vocation, Lack of Catechesis, Truth and Charity

 VATICAN CITY, FEB. 24, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI on Thursday met with priests of his diocese and led them in “lectio divina,” offering a spontaneous Scripture reflection.  Following a reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians, the Pope gave an extensive off-the-cuff commentary on the passage.

The Apostle says: “I … beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

The Holy Father reflected on the vocation to the priesthood.  [I think it is quite interesting that the Holy Father picked this passage.  See, for me, this passage has always spoken to me of my vocation, to be an intercessor, and in a particular way, to be an intercessor for priests.]

The first call we receive is that of baptism, the Pope explained, the second is the vocation to be pastors at the service of Christ. “The great ill of the Church in Europe and the West today is the lack of priestly vocations. Yet, the Lord calls always, what is lacking are ears to listen. We listened to the Lord’s voice and must remain attentive when that voice is addressed to others. We must help to ensure the voice is heard so that the call will be accepted.”  [I think this lack of hearing is not reserved to men discerning a vocation to the priesthood, but everyone, especially in this age where we barely take the time to reflect on the sound bites which are sent our way – much less a message which actually requires pondering.  How can we possibly hear God if we are surrounding ourselves with a cacophony of meaningless noise?  I think as a coping mechanism, we have created what I call the “Junk Filter.”  My junk filter is usually running on High; meaning that very little gets through, and most of what does gets immediately trashed and forgotten as “irrelevant data.”  This extends not only to that which I hear, but also to that which I read – to the extent that often I find myself not “reading” at all, but scanning through text to see if anything might jump out that might have significance for me.  The problem with all of this is that there is much of value which I am missing.  And, worst of all, the voice of God could get caught in my junk filter without my being aware of it.]

According to St. Paul, the primary virtue that must accompany vocation is humility. This is the virtue of the followers of Christ Who, “being equal to God, humbled Himself, accepting the status of servant, and obeying even unto the cross. This was the Son’s journey of humility, which we must imitate. … The opposite of humility is pride, the root of all sin. Pride means arrogance, which above all seeks power and appearance. … It has no intention of pleasing God; rather of pleasing itself, of being accepted, even venerated, by others. The ‘self’ becomes the centre of the world; the prideful self which knows everything. Being Christian means overcoming this original temptation, which is also the nucleus of original sin: being like God, but without God.”

By contrast “humility is, above all, truth, … recognition that I am a thought of God in the construction of His world, that I am irreplaceable as I am, in my smallness, and that only in this way am I great. … Let us learn this realism; not seeking appearance, but seeking to please God and to accomplish what He has thought out for us, and thus also accepting others. … Acceptance of self and acceptance of others go together. Only by accepting myself as part of the great divine tapestry can I also accept others, who with me form part of the great symphony of the Church and Creation.” In this way, likewise, we learn to accept our position within the Church, knowing that “my small service is great in the eyes of God.”  [This is a hard lesson to learn even within my own vocation.  See, just because God has made an individual extremely important in my life (so that I – in my self-absorption – might occasionally remember to do that to which I have been called), this does not mean that I am equally important in that other’s life.  And the truth is:  I shouldn’t expect this.  God gave me this person so that I might support him in prayer, because he needs this.  I am to be a spiritual warrior, in a sense, so that he can do what it is that God is calling him to do.  And so, while I am struggling myself with trying to create some distance from the secular cacophony so that I might better hear God, I need to remember that he, and others, also need that same distance.  However hard it might be when normal channels of communication are severed between friends for the sake creating this opportunity for inner solitude.  It is precisely in this dynamic that I can learn more fully what it means to love, which I think is why God gave me this vocation in the first place.  Because this other person is such a central part of my day and my prayers, I assume for myself a similar status.  Aren’t I important, too?  Of course I am!  But wait, isn’t that a distinct lack of humility?  Why, yes, it is.  And further, it’s an insufficient expression of love.  For what is love but giving your life in some way for another person?  I should only be seeking to give and not to receive.  I am only being asked to give of my time and my prayers.  Any friendship which we might have is a gratuitous gift from God.  True love in Christ is to always want what is best for the other.  Obviously, the opportunity to grow closer to Christ is what is best for the other.  And so I must not mourn the seeming separation that the fasting from technological communication causes, but rejoice in the fact that a deeper bond is being made with our Lord.  The reality is that as each of us individually becomes more closely united with our Lord, we are more closely united to each other – because we are part of the same body which is Him.  Sometimes, I just need to hash this all out on paper (or cyberpaper, as the case may be), in order to see what it is which God wishes me to see.  And I think that in the end, He’s trying to tell me that humility and obedience to His will ultimately leads to an increase in love.  Following my inclinations will only frustrate that after which I am seeking.]

Immature faith

Lack of humility destroys the unity of Christ’s Body. Yet at the same time, unity cannot develop without knowledge. “One great problem facing the Church today is the lack of knowledge of the faith, ‘religious illiteracy,'” the Pope said. “With such illiteracy we cannot grow. … Therefore we must reappropriate the contents of the faith, not as a packet of dogmas and commandments, but as a unique reality revealed in its all its profoundness and beauty. We must do everything possible for catechetical renewal in order for the faith to be known, God to be known, Christ to be known, the truth to be known, and for unity in the truth to grow.”

We cannot, Benedict XVI warned, live in “a childhood of faith.” Many adults have never gone beyond the first catechesis, meaning that “they cannot – as adults, with competence and conviction – explain and elucidate the philosophy of the faith, its great wisdom and rationality” in order to illuminate the minds of others. To do this they need an “adult faith.” This does not mean, as has been understood in recent decades, a faith detached from the Magisterium of the Church. When we abandon the Magisterium, the result is dependency “on the opinions of the world, on the dictatorship of the communications media.” By contrast, true emancipation consists in freeing ourselves of these opinions, the freedom of the children of God. “We must pray to the Lord intensely, that He may help us emancipate ourselves in this sense, to be free in this sense, with a truly adult faith, … capable of helping others achieve true perfection … in communion with Christ.”

Truth

The Pope went on: “Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. … Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God.”

“Where there is truth, there is charity,” the Pope concluded. “This, thanks be to God, can be seen in all centuries, despite many sad events. The fruits of charity have always been present in Christianity, just as they are today. We see it in the martyrs, we see it in so many nuns, monks, and priests who humbly serve the poor and the sick. They are the presence of Christ’s charity and a great sign that the truth is here.”  [Perhaps what is needed is to view it not so much as being a spiritual warrior, but as being a spiritual servant.  For it certainly isn’t through any action of mine that my prayers have efficacy, but through the fact that God allows me to participate in this way so as to be a conduit for His grace.  It is His mercy which allows for my participation, not for the good of the person or people for whom I pray, but for the conversion of my own heart to be conformed to His.]

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