It’s hard to know where to begin, and not from lack of topics. There are the upcoming elections in a time of strong unrest and social division. Fulfill the privilege and responsibility to vote. Vote in accord with a well-formed Catholic conscience, which teaches us the appropriate hierarchy of goods, beginning with the right to life itself as the condition to enjoy all other rights and goods. Do not focus solely on the presidential race; elected officials at every level are being chosen. Engage in conversation with civility and charity. Has anyone ever been truly converted by shouting, belittling, intimidation, or violence?
There is the pandemic and the changes it has brought.
How can we learn and grow from this unplanned experience? Rather than simply “back to normal,” how can we become “better than ever?”
There is the good work going on with the “One In Christ” committees exploring being good stewards of God’s gifts; evangelizing those we already count among our communities, those preparing for the sacraments; and those searching for God; and working to support our younger members in a time filled with uncertainty. To be “One In Christ” is not just a slogan, and not even just an ideal; it is the source of our strength. There is St. Francis of Assisi, whose feast is today. His love for God’s creation and his shining witness of simplicity and poverty inspire us who are so conditioned to acquire and consume.
As I pondered these themes, I kept coming back to a radio address by then-Fr. Joseph Ratzinger, a full fifty years ago. Key to the Church’s message today is to communicate hope. Hope is not simple cheery optimism that “it’ll all work out somehow.” Hope is a theological virtue given to each in Baptism, an indwelling gift from God that assures us that while we will face many obstacles in life, God’s grace and mercy will not fail us. Hope assures us that all things – even the conflicts and sorrows of history – are in the good and strong hands of God. Salvation is revealed precisely through the Cross of Jesus, leading to new life. We may not understand why; but trust carries us where human knowledge falls silent. Thus Fr. Ratzinger wrote:
From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge – a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning.
She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As a small society, she will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members. Undoubtedly she will discover new forms of ministry. But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world. In faith and prayer she will again recognize her true center … our home, where we will find life and hope beyond death.
He Would Love First!
October 24, 2020
A July Faith Formation Series – Part IV – APOSTOLIC