A faith that does not raise questions is a faith that has to be questioned
By Mike James
For anyone who has tried to make and keep New Year Resolutions, an honest conclusion on reflection at the end of the year can often be that positive change of heart and attitudes, especially of ourselves, comes slowly and painfully.
As Pope Francis approaches five years in office in March 2018, and he evaluated with the 100+ top officials of the Vatican, the progress in reforming the Church´s bureaucracy, the Curia, one of the major reasons why the Cardinals voted for him as an unpretentious, frank outsider follower of Christ to be successor of Peter, he told them, and himself, how difficult it is to break bad habits.
The following are excerpts from that challenging pre-Christmas address:
Christmas is the feast of faith in the Son of God who became man to restore us to our filial dignity, lost through sin and disobedience. Christmas is the feast of faith in hearts that become a manger to receive him and souls that allow God to make a shoot of hope, charity and faith sprout from the stump of their poverty.
Today is once again a moment for exchanging Christmas greetings and for wishing a holy and joyful Christmas and a happy New Year to you and your co-workers, to the Papal Representatives, to all those persons who serve in the Curia, and to all your dear ones. May this Christmas open our eyes so that we can abandon what is superfluous, false, malicious and sham, and to see what is essential, true, good and authentic. My best wishes indeed!
… My reflections are based of course on the fundamental canonical principles of the Curia and on its own history, but also on the personal vision that I have sought to share with you in my addresses of recent years, within the context of the reform currently under way.
Speaking of reform, I think of the amusing yet pointed remark of Archbishop Frédéric-François-Xavier de Mérode: “Making reforms in Rome is like cleaning the Sphinx with a toothbrush”. His words point to the patience, tenacity and sensitivity needed to attain that goal.
… A Curia closed in on itself would betray its own raison d’être and plunge into self-referentiality and ultimately destroy itself. The Church, is by her very nature projected ad extra, and only to the extent that she remains linked to the Petrine ministry, the service of God’s word and the preaching of the Gospel. That Good News is that God is Emmanuel, who is born among us and becomes one of us to show to all his visceral closeness, his limitless love and his divine desire that all men and women be saved and come to enjoy the blessings of heaven (cf. 1 Tim 2:4). He is the God who makes his sun rise on the good and evil alike (cf. Mt 5:45); the God who came not to be served but to serve (cf. Mt 20:28); the God who establishes the Church to be in the world but not of the world, and to be an instrument of salvation and service.
…. This is very important for rising above that unbalanced and debased mindset of plots and small cliques that in fact represent – for all their self-justification and good intentions – a cancer leading to a self-centredness that also seeps into ecclesiastical bodies, and in particular those working in them. When this happens, we lose the joy of the Gospel, the joy of sharing Christ and of fellowship with him; we lose the generous spirit of our consecration (cf. Acts 20:35 and 2 Cor 9:7).
…. Here let me allude to another danger: those who betray the trust put in them and profiteer from the Church’s motherhood. I am speaking of persons carefully selected to give a greater vigour to the body and to the reform, but – failing to understand the lofty nature of their responsibility – let themselves be corrupted by ambition or vainglory. Then, when they are quietly side-lined, they wrongly declare themselves martyrs of the system, of a “Pope kept in the dark”, of the “old guard” …, rather than reciting a mea culpa. Alongside these, there are others who are still working there, to whom all the time in the world is given to get back on the right track, in the hope that they find in the Church’s patience an opportunity for conversion and not for personal advantage. Of course, this is in no way to overlook the vast majority of faithful persons working there with praiseworthy commitment, fidelity, competence, dedication and great sanctity.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I began our meeting by speaking of Christmas as the Feast of Faith. I would like to conclude, though, by pointing out that Christmas reminds us that a faith that does not trouble us is a troubled faith. A faith that does not make us grow is a faith that needs to grow. A faith that does not raise questions is a faith that has to be questioned. A faith that does not rouse us is a faith that needs to be roused. A faith that does not shake us is a faith that needs to be shaken. Indeed, a faith which is only intellectual or lukewarm is only a notion of faith. It can become real once it touches our heart, our soul, our spirit and our whole being. Once it allows God to be born and reborn in the manger of our heart. Once we let the star of Bethlehem guide us to the place where the Son of God lies, not among Kings and riches, but among the poor and humble.
As Angelus Silesius wrote in The Cherubinic Wanderer: “It depends solely on you. Ah, if only your heart could become a manger, then God would once again become a child on this earth”.
With these reflections, I renew my personal best wishes for Christmas for you and your dear ones. Thank you!”
Change as Francis so clearly, even bluntly put it is not easy. A faith that does not shake us, is indeed a faith that needs to be shaken as it allows God to be born and reborn in the manger of our hearts.
Despite the broken promises, despite the temptations to cynicism and indifference, across societies, from end of year cabinet meetings and gatherings of diplomatic corps for evaluation and reorientation, to the simple lists of resolutions of little ones looking forward to next Christmas’ rewards for being good, we all hope and want to do our bit to make 2018 a better year.
It’s not too late to make a New Year Resolution.
Happy New Year!