Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, "Church of Mercy of Pope Francis," response in several parts - Part Two

This continues my explication and response to Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga's essay and talk, "The Church of Mercy of Pope Francis."  Part One of my response is here.

“The Church of Mercy with Pope Francis” (cont'd)

2. Mercy is the Highest Expression of Love


The Church presided in charity—as it is called liturgically—wants to be known in times of Pope Francis [and, indeed, in all times] as the house of mercy. The following text summarizes this symbol of identity: “I believe that this is the season of mercy. This new era we have entered, and the many problems in the Church – like the poor witness given by some priests, problems of corruption in the Church, the problem of clericalism for example – have left so many people hurt, left so much hurt. The Church is a mother: she has to go out to heal those who are hurting, with mercy.” (Pope Francis Press Conference on July 28, 2013)


The Pope’s words in this speech feel harsh for the corrupted, the abuser, the liar, the one who seeks power mundanely, but feel tender and benevolent, like balm and sweet to “those who are hurting.” [By itself, this risks being a false dichotomy. What about those already being healed, who seek to serve? Or those outside the Church still rejecting every approach of grace?]  A Samaritan Church will heal the wounds of those who are beaten, hurting and prostrated, those who have weakly fallen under the power of those who use violence. That is why the Pope’s words have such a deep evangelical meaning. Thinking about the Church as “a mother who has to go out to heal those who are hurting, with mercy,” puts her in a completely original role —the one from the beginning of Christianity— a Church that is close to people, incarnated and submerged in the existential history of man, turning their miseries into wealth and their weaknesses into their biggest strength. [Quite true, that Christ founded the Church to be a merciful mother to all, and that, inasmuch as the Church is indefectible (Mt 16:18), she has always been such.  But, he seems to contradict this, below...]  This makes us think of the Church in metaphoric similarities to a “home” and a “hospital”. The Church of Christ is the Church of Francis: beset with compassion.


2.1 The starting point: God’s Mercy


In the Angelus from September 15, 2013, the Pope said: “Remember this well, ‘There is no limit to the Divine Mercy which is offered to everyone,” since “Mercy is the true force that can save man and the world from the “cancer” that is sin, moral evil, spiritual evil. Only love fills the void, the negative chasms that evil opens in hearts and in history. Only love can do this, and this is God’s joy!”


Starting from God’s Mercy, the Church that allows itself to be led by that mercy [What’s his implied contradiction here? Is it possible to imagine “the Church,” qua Church, not allowing itself to be led by divine mercy?] becomes infinitely generous and can take the commandment of Love to the ultimate consequences, knowing that it is Love what saves man and the world, or what saves man from the world. If sin is considered a “cancer” and can disguise itself as moral evil, spiritual evil and psychological evil, then the universal remedy against any form of evil will be the love that becomes forgiveness [In its fullness, this means participation in the holy Eucharist: LG #13, etc.]; it will be the love that becomes hope able to give meaning to so many empty lives and so many human lives beset with pain and frustration. If something is able to redeem from sin it is the Cross of Christ. Therefore, everything that fits under the Cross’ shade is redeemed. [In this image, one sees Mary and John at the foot of the Cross, with the whole apostolic, sacramental, and devotional “spirituality” thus evoked.]


It is not just Christ’s pain and his passion that redeem, it is not just the cross that saves us: his pain, his passion and his cross have redeeming power because of Love. [Because the Love is God Himself; see CCC 602, 603, etc.]  It is then Christ’s crucified Love that gives back meaning to human existence and elevates it to the dignity from which sin deprived it and that Jesus’ decision, dying for love in the cross, recovered.


If the world experienced how big God’s love and salvation initiative are, all temples would be filled with people asking for the holy sacraments of Confession, Baptism, Anointing of the Sick and Eucharist. Priests would not be able to handle such a need for absolution, blessing or communion since entire multitudes —convinced of that infinite love of God, origin of salvation—, would understand that truth and life have a name: Jesus. And his name is Love.


That is why the Pope says, “Only love fills the void,” Which void? Superficiality, noise, alienation of the heart that hardens when it lets itself be taken over by consumerism, love for money, the culture of death, the maelstrom of pleasure in all its forms, the drugs and the life without God. [In a word, sin.]  If man’s void was filled with God’s mercy and mercy could be experienced in the Church, nobody would abandon their parish, temples would be packed with faithful, seminaries would be filled with young men that would leave the field of daily worries to devote themselves to serve God and console their brothers. This is not idyllic nor poetic, it is as realistic as the pain that only love can heal. Void cannot be filled with another void. It has to be filled with content and realities that can sublimate and explain them. [I.e, the real encounter with divine love and mercy, of which the highest form is in the Sacraments.]  That is why the answer that man—wounded—seeks as the ultimate meaning of his existence only exists in God. If people were to found a Church close to the people, compassionate, a companion, identified with the bleeding pain of so many “sick” and terminally ill lives, the Church of Christ, the Church that Pope Francis presides today, would be more credible and necessary. [I certainly don’t think he means that people founded the Church instead of Christ, but he does begin here to drive in the wedge of “Church of Christ = Church of Francis, but not = Church of, say, Trent...”]


2.2. The Point of Encounter: Man’s misery


It is starting from God’s mercy how we reach man. That is why every honest meeting with the existential reality of man takes place under the sign of mercy. It is either mercy or judgment. [A perfectly correct dichotomy (e.g., CCC 1021)]  And the Church is not here to judge, condemn, reproach or reject anybody but to embrace as in a home where love reigns for everybody who needs it. [No, but, let’s not gloss over the rather critical step of one’s acceptance of mercy and entering into the path of conversion.]


Pope Francis explains that Jesus’ mercy towards man is not so much a feeling as a force. He says it in this manner, “it is a force that gives life, that raises man up! (…) “This compassion is the love of God for man, it is mercy, the attitude of God in contact with human misery, with our poverty, our suffering, our anguish,” (Angelus, June 9, 2013).


[This paragraph is good:] It is not a simple emotional harmony of the agreement of altruist feelings but a real assumption and possession of the misery of man by God. When Christ was Incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made Man (cf. Nicene’s Creed), he took as his all human beings reality, all their miseries to redeem them and save what was lost. He did it in a way that where there was man in his circumstances, where there was a person conditioned by his or her own existential environment, where life weighs and existence hurts, where depression and absurdity stand out, God’s love arrives, repeating what the Pope said, “the attitude of God in contact with human misery, with our poverty, our suffering, our anguish,” (idem). God does not become absent from man. Instead, moved by mercy, He has an eternal appointment with him to heal his misery and proclaim about each life and about each history a new hope made up of forgiveness, comprehension and deep tenderness. This type of God wants this type of Church. [Yes; and in fact God has this type of Church, since it’s precisely this Church which He founded.]


Therefore, following Jesus does not mean to participate in a triumphant entourage. [Again, yes, but... We certainly embrace humility and reject “triumphalism” in any of its worldly senses (see Mt 20:25-6; 1 Pet 3:5; etc.), but the victory of Christ over sin and death is a triumph worth celebrating; and the host of saints entering Heaven in “martial array” (e.g., 1 Kgs 8, Rev 19, etc.) is “triumphant” in a good sense, which it would damage the Church to lose – to wit:] It means to share his merciful love, to enter his great work of mercy for each man and for all men.

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