Monday, 29 July 2013

In Rio - a Renewed Call to Rebuild!

Pope Francis has frequently spoken of St Francis and how his life and message are particularly relevant to the Church of our time.

During World Youth Day in Rio, at the Prayer Vigil, in which some 2 million youth participated, the Pope recalled the invitation from Christ that changed the life of Francis of Assisi. Praying before the Cross in the little ruined chapel of San Damiano he heard the invitation: 'Francis, go and rebuild my house!'

As part of the vigil a group constructed a 'church' on the huge stage - a symbol of our task to work with the Lord in constantly renewing his House, his People!

Pope Francis said: 'We have just recalled the story of Saint Francis of Assisi. In front of the crucifix he heard the voice of Jesus saying to him: "Francis, go, rebuild my house". The young Francis responded readily and generously to the Lord’s call to rebuild his house.'

However St Francis had to learn the deeper meaning of Christ’s invitation.

'But which house? Slowly but surely, Francis came to realize that it was not a question of repairing a stone building, but about doing his part for the life of the Church. It was a matter of being at the service of the Church, loving her and working to make the countenance of Christ shine ever more brightly in her.'

The Pope reminded the youth that this call of Christ was also given to them:

'Tonight, let us answer Christ: Yes, I too want to be a living stone; together we want to build up the Church of Jesus! Let us all say together: I want to go forth and build up the Church of Christ!
Dear friends, never forget that you are the field of faith! You are Christ’s athletes! You are called to build a more beautiful Church and a better world.'
And as he so often stresses -  this sacred space we help rebuild must be 'roomy' enough for the whole world. Pope Francis has no time for an inward looking Church, caught up in itself.
'In the Church of Jesus, we ourselves are the living stones. Jesus is asking us to build up his Church, but not as a little chapel which holds only a small group of persons. He asks us to make his living Church so large that it can hold all of humanity, that it can be a home for everyone!'

Sunday, 14 July 2013

That First Smile...

The Irish Jesuit Michael Paul Gallagher likens Christian faith to the first smile of an infant:
“For weeks you smile and express your love... then one day your baby smile back. He or she has entered into a different relationship, has responded to all you have given. It is a moment of recognition, of love. Our life of faith is exactly like that in its core simplicity. God loves us in Christ; and one day you must realise it... there is a danger of reducing faith to morality or to the externals of religious belonging. If that happens behaviour in the Christian life becomes a matter of ‘I ought to’ or ‘I ought not’. Needless to say the commandments come alive and make best sense if God’s love is received and recognised – like that first smile.”

I recalled this image of the first smile when reading Pope Francis’encyclical, Lumen Fidei where he writes:

“Faith transforms the whole person precisely to the extent that he or she becomes open to love.”

Then, in turn, this love leads an ever deeper knowing.
"Through this blending of faith and love we come to see the kind of knowledge which faith entails, its power to convince and its ability to illumine our steps. Faith knows because it is tied to love, because love itself brings enlightenment. Faith’s understanding is born when we receive the immense love of God which transforms us inwardly and enables us to see reality with new eyes.”
“Love itself brings enlightenment.”
This echoes our deepest Franciscan understanding. Commenting on the profound Christian wisdom obvious in St Francis’ life, Friar Thomas of Celano, his first biographer, wrote:
 “Where the learning of the scholars remains outside, the affection of the lover enters within!”
Pope Francis emphasises frequently the link between love, faith and seeing:
"Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives. Transformed by this love, we gain fresh vision, new eyes to see. Those who believe - see!"
And by the grace of the Spirit this seeing, this knowing can persist even when our faith enters, as it must, the various seasons of darkness on life's path.