Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Passing Through The Tunnel

The Pope's Address to the Priests of Aosta went on so long the other day that even he confessed, "I have gone on too long."

But here are some really striking nuggets. Translations courtesy of Don Giorgio.

In the past week we've heard two or three times, it seems to me, this parable of the sower which is really a parable of consolation in a different situation, but in a certain sense also a situation similar to ours.

The work of the Lord had begun with great enthusiasm. They saw the sick healed, everyone hearing with joy the message: "The Kingdom of God is near." It seemed that truly the changing of the world and coming of the Kingdom of God was something that was imminent; that, finally, the sadness of the people of God would be changed into joy. There was an expectation of a messenger of God who would be able to take in hand the rudder that would guide history. But afterwards they saw that, yes, the sick had been healed, the demons cast out, the Gospel proclaimed but, for the rest, the world remained as it had been. Nothing changed. The Romans still dominated. Life was difficult every day, despite these miracles, these beautiful words. And thus, the enthusiasm flickered out and, finally, as we learn in the sixth chapter of John, even the disciples abandoned this Preacher who had preached, but who had not changed the world.

What is this message? What is this Prophet of God getting at? All are finally asking. The Lord speaks of the sower who sows in the field of the world. And the seed seems like his Word, like those healings, a truly small thing when confronted with historical and political reality. Like the seed it is small, negligible, so also the Word.

Nevertheless, it is said that in the seed the future is present, because the seed carries within itself the bread of tomorrow, the life of tomorrow. The seed appears as if it is nothing, nevertheless the seed is the presence of the future, and the promise - already present - today. And thus with this parable he says: we are in the time of sowing, the Word of God seems a single word, as nothing. But have courage! This Word carries in itself life! And it bears fruit! The parable also says that the greater part of the seed does not bear fruit because it falls on the path, on dry ground, and so forth. But the part that falls on good soil bears fruit thirty, sixty, a hundredfold....

In the last weeks I have had "Ad limina" visits with the bishops of Sri Lanka and from part of South Africa. Here vocations are growing, even so much so that they are not able to build enough seminaries to accommodate the young people who want to become priests. Naturally this joy also brings with it a certain sadness, since part of this, at least, comes from hope of social promotion. Making themselves priests, they become sort of tribal chiefs, they are naturally privileged, they have another form of life, and so forth. Thus weeds and wheat come together in this beautiful growth of vocations, and the bishops have to be very attentive in discernment and not be simply content to have many future priests, but to see how many are real vocations, to distinguish the good grain from the chaff....

The Catholic Church is not in as bad shape as the great historical Protestant Churches, but naturally shares the problem of our historical moment. I don't think there is a system for a rapid change. We ought to go forward, to pass through this tunnel with patience in the assurance that Christ is the answer and that in the end his light will appear anew.

So the first answer is patience in the certainty that without God the world is not able to live, the God of Revelation - and not just any God: we see how dangerous a cruel God is, an untrue God - the God who has shone his Face in Jesus Christ. This Face which has suffered for us, the Face of love that transforms the world, in the way of the grain of wheat that falls to the ground.

How sweet it is to have a fluid, lyrical Pope. The book-length encyclical -- in which we're bound to see a lot of this very material -- is shaping up to be such an enjoyable read.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

JM, he's just recounting lessons learned, that's all. Just because we did something stupid once, that doesn't mean we have to keep doing it.

30/7/05 14:47  

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