This year we have already been blessed and gifted with a surprise gift. This gift has appeared before the official, giving season. This gift is intended to enrich us individually, and collectively. The gift is the gift of a wish, "a dream." It comes to us from our Pastor-in chief, Pope Francis. In his writing of "The Joy of The Gospel," he has spelled out in pretty much real detail his dream for our Catholic Christian Church, CCC. (To get the full text of what the pope has written just Google ,Pope Francis, "The Joy of The Gospel") I encourage you, no, I beg you to gift yourself with his power-full words. These words are meant to be drawn into the depths of who we are, where they will transform us. This will happen when we take the risk of saying "Yes." Yes to the challenging truth, which will lead us into ways ,and places unknown. "I believe, The journey of faith is of its essence a journey into the unknown. On this mysterious journey we have been given Mary as our model. Her "Yes," her "Fia," is always pointed out as the reality to be followed. She did not know where her "Yes" was going to take her, neither do we. All we know is that we will never be alone. We will never be forsaken. We may feel alone, and/or forsaken, but deep within we never are. We cannot be, otherwise the scriptures lie, and God has reneged on His promise "to be with us always." "I believe Lord, help my unbelief/disbelief. This is also Merton's great prayer; "Lord God I have no idea where I am going, I do not see the road ahead of me..." If you do not know the rest, Google what is here and ???
Pope Francis has outlined a wonder-full, exciting, and challenging vision. It is, however, up to each one of us to take that vision within and respond according to the gifts that have already been bestowed up us by the Holy Spirit, (St.Paul) Special gifts that have been set in place are within us so we will be able, if we so choose, to respond to the Pope's challenge to be a "church of the poor, for the poor." The gifts of The Spirit are to used to grow worldly riches. On the contrary, we are warned all the gifts given are NOT for ourselves, but for the building up of the common good. (Paul) What a challenging, some would use the word radical, vision our Pope has for us. In one way there is nothing new in what Pope Francis is saying. While in another way he is leading us to a new and more radical understanding of what it means to be a Catholic Christian Church, rooted in Gospel values. This "radical living' has not been, nor will it ever be easy.
On the contrary, the certainty of death always awaits those who live the Gospel message. This "death" will come in many different ways, but it will come. Are we to be surprised? Of course not. We are, after all, followers of the historical Jesus. This is He, Who because of the nature of His mission and ministry, Jesus, the enfleshment of God was conspired against and killed. The Rabbi Jesus challenged the leaders of His own religion to change. They never got to the place where they were able to connect the voice of The Prophet Jesus, with the voice of God. They were not able to believe that "this Jesus of Nazareth, the local carpenter, and the God they believed in, were one. These outwardly good people when their security was threatened, conspired with the secular powers to condemn Him to death. Not just any death but the worst possible death, crucifixion. From this we learn that it does not pay to challenge the status quo. Those with vested interest will defend their "kingdoms" by all means at their disposal. All one has to do is read the accounts of the opposition to what the Pope intends to do. As it was then, so it is now, and ever shall be until the end of time.
Thank God our Pope is moving inexorable forward. He is not backing down from his vision that our Catholic Church, must be a poor church, for the poor. We poor, we come in many shapes, sizes and disguises. We are catholic in our colors, black, white, yellow, brown, red, and all their many hues. We all belong to the great family of humankind. We all spring from the same Womb, so where does the fracturing come from? There is no division, only Oneness in The Spirit we sprang. That original spiritual unity ,must be reclaimed. We are encouraged to claim the fact that we are the beloved again and again, as often as we remember to do so. (Nouwen) We all share the common desire, and need for acceptance and love. The Pope is pointing us in the direction of The Mercy-full, Prodigal love that is ever and always being offered to us. After all, we are the beloved, of The Beloved Lover. Love is always being offered to us, and as a result new life is being offered to us. However, we have to claim for ourselves, our church, and all of creation this ever "newness" in which Pope Francis is so fond. With him there is always a newness to our life. It is never "the same old same old." How exciting!!! We are loved as we are, so we can become the actual dream our God has of us.
Where love is, there is also the creative work of God. You cannot have one without the other. So no matter how broken and hopeless we may see things there is a deeper reality that has to be recognized, and reverenced. The medicine of God's mercy-full love is ALWAYS at work, whether we know it or not. We do not know how medicines work, but we will and others will see the results. Most medicines work in that inner darkness, and so it is with grace. We do not know how it works, but we see and experience its transforming power. When all seems to be lost, and we are at a dead end, ready to give up a glimmer of light, (this takes many forms) breaks into our lives. Where there is light; there is growth, so it is with us. Where we only saw an ending, now there is a beginning of something new, which could never be imagined.It seems our Pope wants us to discover, and be prepared for, The God Of Surprises. We must become a people accustomed to His/Her surprise visits. I've read a published report of the Pope's disguised visits to the poor and the homeless of Rome. He goes out dressed like a regular priest to minister to the poor, and the homeless in his own backyard. What a surprise for those women and men to have The Pope minister to them in their moments of need. Of course this is nothing new for him. This was his practice back in Argentina. I guess the greatest surprise of all was The All Power-full God coming to us disguised as a vulnerable human baby. What a surprise awaits us, each time to delve in with new lenses into the mystery of The Incarnation. So this Advent season we are again journeying, for the first time as we are right now, with Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. We are again given this Advent Season to prepare our Bethlehem, for the arrival of their, and our Mysterious Surprise. The Christ Child came as a surprise to them, as it always is for us. The revelation of God never appears where we expect it to happen, or how we want it to happen. The Incarnation in Bethlehem was the fulfillment of a promise made many eons ago. This promise, at times, looked like it would not, or could not be fulfilled, but with God all things are possible. God's ways are not our ways, nor are our ways God's way.