Amoris Lætitia and God’s Word

Let us read slowly Pope Francis recent Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Lætitia—The Joy of Love. The document begins, in chapter one, with a survey of God’s Word, which is permeated with family and spousal love. In this document, the Pope quotes or cites Scripture more than 250 times, making use of 154 chapters from 39 books of both Old and New Testament.

Scripture begins with the creation of man as male and female in Genesis and ends with the wedding feast of the Lamb with his Bride, the Church in the book of Revelation. One cannot understand God and the Christian Faith he has revealed to us if one cannot understand the joy of marriage and the family.

The Pope highlights how God created us in his own image as male and female in Genesis, which calls the human couple to be “a living and effective ‘image,’ a visible sign of his creative act” (Amoris Lætitia 10), especially in the “couple that loves and begets life” (ibid. 11). For this reason he says that “the couple’s fruitful relationship becomes an image for understanding and describing the mystery of God himself, for in the Christian vision of the Trinity, God is contemplated as Father, Son and Spirit of love. The triune God is a communion of love, and the family is its living reflection” (ibid. 11).

God inspires us to say, “My soul clings to you,” oh Lord (Ps 63:9), as man is called to cleave to his wife. Each person’s harmonious union with God, then, is prefigured in the “voluntary self-giving in love” of marriage between a man and a woman (Amoris Lætitia 13). “God also sees children as gifts, like olive shoots “full of energy and vitality,” fruit of the womb, and living stones upon which God builds his family. Happy the man whose quiver is full of children! (cfr Amoris Lætitia 14). This makes the home a domestic church, a place of common prayer and blessing, and “where children are brought up in the faith” (ibid. 15-16). In the family, children learn their dignity as persons, how to love and honor God through their parents, and how God calls them to himself through their Christian vocation. Also, from children we must all learn to become simple, humble, and childlike (ibid. 17-18).

Yet the Bible is also realistic about family difficulties, when sin deforms the loving spousal relationship into domination (ibid. 19), when siblings fight, kill, and rape siblings (ibid. 20), when families must face fear, death, or the loss of a wayward son or daughter (ibid. 21). Even the icon of the Holy Family reflects this realism in the hardships they had to face (ibid. 30).

So, God’s Word is not abstract or idealistic, but contains a realistic picture of human love and the family meant to reflect our human dignity. The family is where we learn to work in order to contribute to the common good of the family and society, and where sin destroys creation and its beauty (ibid. 22-26). Marriage and the family is the context where we learn “the law of love and the gift of self for others” and how to forgive (ibid. 27); for learning of God’s tender compassion toward us (ibid. 28) and of our call to the most intimate communion of love possible: Eucharistic Communion (ibid. 29).

The Pope is encouraging us to let God’s Word influence our lives, especially in the way we approach marriage and the family. So let us open the Bible as we read this document and let God’s Spirit of Love inspire us.

Fr. John R. Waiss

Online: http://sma-church.org/motherofpurelove

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Amoris Lætitia: Taking it Slowly

Pope Francis recently released the Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Lætitia—The Joy of Love, his summary of the two synods of bishops on the family. The press was quick to report that it “changes everything,” that church doctrine is no longer the final word on tricky moral questions, that only one’s own conscience can guide Catholics, that the divorced and remarried can now receive Communion “on a case-by-case basis,” etc. Other reports say that the document is “bad news for gays” and that it changes nothing. These rushed pieces either imply that Church doctrine has radically changed or that Pope Francis had nothing to say.

The Pope’s exhortation even warned us (and the media) about this possible distorted approach to the synodal: “The debates carried on in the media, in certain publications and even among the Church’s ministers, range from an immoderate desire for total change without sufficient reflection or grounding, to an attitude that would solve everything by applying general rules or deriving undue conclusions from particular theological considerations” (Amoris Lætitia, 2).

So how should we approach this new papal document? Cardinal Raymond Burke suggests:

“a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, by its very nature, does not propose new doctrine and discipline, but applies the perennial doctrine and discipline to the situation of the world at the time… The Church’s official doctrine, in fact, provides the irreplaceable interpretative key to the post-synodal apostolic exhortation” (“Amoris Laetitia and the Constant Teaching and Practice of the Church,” National Catholic Register, April 12, 2016).

Let’s avoid rushed provocative news reports, that don’t listen to the Pope, who reminds us that:

“this Exhortation will treat, in different ways, a wide variety of questions. This explains its inevitable length. Consequently, I do not recommend a rushed reading of the text. The greatest benefit… will come if each part is read patiently and carefully, or if attention is paid to the parts dealing with their special needs… It is my hope that, in reading this text, all will feel called to love and cherish family life, for ‘families are not a problem; they are first and foremost an opportunity’” (Amoris Lætitia, 7).

We need to read the document slowly, and avoid projecting on the Pope’s words what we want them to say. We need to have an open and listening heart to “the Christian proclamation on the family [which] is good news indeed” (Amoris Lætitia, 1). Let us read the document in the same way we read other Church documents inspired in the Good News of Jesus Christ: with an openness to conform our lives to that of Christ’s Gospel. We should let the Spirit guide “us towards the entire truth (cf. Jn 16:13), until he leads us fully into the mystery of Christ and enables us to see all things as he does” (Amoris Lætitia, 3).

In particular, Pope Francis wants us to use this document as “an invitation to Christian families to value the gifts of marriage and the family, and to persevere in a love strengthened by the virtues of generosity, commitment, fidelity and patience… [and] to encourage everyone to be a sign of mercy and closeness wherever family life remains imperfect or lacks peace and joy” (Amoris Lætitia, 5).

So, let us try to read it with this disposition and so glean from it wisdom on and for the family. Perhaps it can aid us all to better serve married couples, families, and couples preparing for marriage to live out Christ’s Gospel of Love and Life.

Fr. John R. Waiss

Online: http://sma-church.org/motherofpurelove

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Apostles in the Middle of the World

If someone were to ask us, what is the purpose of the Church? I think we would all say to get people to heaven. Baptism makes us members of the Church, and we all have a role in helping people to reach heaven.

The Second Vatican Council teaches this very clearly: “For the Christian vocation by its very nature is a vocation to the apostolate”. (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity No 2).

People who have a job in the middle of the world have an essential role to play in having society be more the way Christ wants it to be. The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Vatican II states about the vocation of the laity:

“But the laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. In this way they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity.” (Lumen Gentium, Chapter IV, No. 31).

In all professions and trades, Christ wants doctors, lawyers, tradesmen, homemakers, students, etc., to radiate the message and Christian life style. It is very important to do our work as well as we can, while fulfilling family obligations and other responsibilities that we have.

To live our roll as apostles a life of prayer is necessary. It is the foundation of apostolic action. St. Josemaría tells us in The Way No. 301: “A secret, an open secret: these world crises are crises of saints. God wants a handful of men ‘of his own’ in every human activity. And then… ‘pax Christi in regno Christi — the peace of Christ in the kingdom of Christ’.”

Pope Francis describes how this can be done:

“Today, as the Church seeks to experience a profound missionary renewal, there is a kind of preaching which falls to each of us as a daily responsibility. It has to do with bringing the Gospel to the people we meet, whether they be our neighbors or complete strangers. This is the informal preaching, which takes place in the middle of a conversation, something along the lines of what a missionary does when visiting a home. Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey.” (Joy of the Gospel-Evangelii Gaudium, No 127).

Fr. Hilary Mahaney

Online: http://sma-church.org/motherofpurelove

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Mercy and Expectations

We honor God as we honor our parents because they treat us with mercy, as real persons, not as slaves or robots who obey blindly. They treat us as fellow creatures made in their own image and likeness, as an equal in terms of shared dignity.

Our true dignity lies in God loving us and making us in his image and likeness. A child discovers this in the family: that his parents love him and that he reflects his parents’ image and likeness. Parents mercifully love a child in himself, and not as an object, i.e., as a means to an end to satisfy someone’s needs or desires.

One way to communicate mercy and dignity is by avoiding having expectations of people. Expectations are fine… for machines. You get into your car, turn the key, and what do you expect? You expect it to start, right? And what if it doesn’t? After you calm down, you get the car towed to the mechanic. If the mechanic tells you that the engine is shot and that it is not worth repairing, what do you do? You junk that car and buy another one. That is fine… for machines, but not for people—although our society says it is: if your spouse doesn’t meet your expectations, divorce him (junk him) and get another one. NO! We can’t do that with people.

So what do we do? Can one ask a child to do something without expecting them to do it? He’ll never do anything…

Well, suppose a parent does expect a child to do something (say take out the garbage) and he does it. What is the parent’s reaction? “Ho-hum… now here are 2 or 3 other things I want you to do.” The parent takes the wind out of the child’s sails. The child thinks: “Mom, don’t you appreciate what I just did? I freely got up from the TV and went to the kitchen and took the garbage to the sidewalk outside… what do you think I am, your slave?”

Now suppose the parent doesn’t expect the child to do what he is asked to do but he does it. What is the parent’s reaction now? “Wow! Thank you! You freely got up from the TV and took the garbage from the kitchen to the sidewalk… That’s amazing!” Even if you don’t exactly say this, he child sees it on your face feels great because… he made mom happy!

Notice you don’t do this with machines: when you turn the key and the car starts, do you jump out of the car and shout: “It started!” Then do you give the car a kiss and drive off? NO! Because it is a machine, it simply did what you expected it to do.

So what does a parent do when the child doesn’t do what he asked him to do? Well, if the parent doesn’t expect a child to do it the parent will calmly thing what is the appropriate consequence, such as no more TV for 24 hours. The child thinks: “Why am I suffering not being able to watch my TV show… Mom’s not even angry”—anger arises when the parent expects the child to do something that he doesn’t do. But if the parent is not angry because he didn’t expect the child to do it, then the child associates the suffering with his own actions—or inaction in this case.

Expectations treat people like objects, not as persons… we can still have high aspirations of people, believing in them to do great things. But also respecting their free will as persons. This is true mercy!

Fr. John R. Waiss

Online: http://sma-church.org/motherofpurelove

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Apostles in the Middle of the World

If someone were to ask us, what is the purpose of the Church? I think we would all say to get people to heaven. Baptism makes us members of the Church, and we all have a role in helping people to reach heaven. The Second Vatican Council teaches this very clearly: “For the Christian vocation by its very nature is a vocation to the apostolate”. (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity No 2). People who have a job in the middle of the world have an essential role to play in having society be more the way Christ wants it to be. The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Vatican II states about the vocation of the laity:
“But the laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. In this way they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity.” (Lumen Gentium, Chapter IV, No. 31).
In all professions and trades, Christ wants doctors, lawyers, tradesmen, homemakers, students, etc., to radiate the message and Christian life style. It is very important to do our work as well as we can, while fulfilling family obligations and other responsibilities that we have. To live our roll as apostles a life of prayer is necessary. It is the foundation of apostolic action. St. Josemaría tells us in The Way No. 301: “A secret, an open secret: these world crises are crises of saints. God wants a handful of men ‘of his own’ in every human activity. And then… ‘pax Christi in regno Christi — the peace of Christ in the kingdom of Christ’.” Pope Francis describes how this can be done:
“Today, as the Church seeks to experience a profound missionary renewal, there is a kind of preaching which falls to each of us as a daily responsibility. It has to do with bringing the Gospel to the people we meet, whether they be our neighbors or complete strangers. This is the informal preaching, which takes place in the middle of a conversation, something along the lines of what a missionary does when visiting a home. Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey.” (Joy of the Gospel-Evangelii Gaudium, No 127).
 

Fr. Hilary Mahaney

Online: http://sma-church.org/motherofpurelove

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