Friday, 6 November 2009
So treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the Law and the Prophets
I used to have a suspicion about this saying, that after Our Lord had said all the hard stuff about planks in your eyes, He uttered this by way of saying, OK if you are not up to the difficult bits of my teaching, I can atleast appeal to your selfish nature to get you to behave nicely to each other, because nobody wants to be treated horribly by others. Interpreted in this way, the saying is bland and this contradicts all Our Lord is teaching us. This saying is primarily NOT about being nicey nicey because Our Lord always appeals to our higher nature.
Treat others as you would like them to treat you.
Replace self interest with caritas and the saying becomes significantly more profound. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we want to be treated as members of the same body, therefore the saying can be interpreted as being about the care of our bodies and souls.
Care for the spiritual and physical needs of your brothers and sisters as you would expect them to care for your spiritual and physical needs.
My dear Bishops, this has profound implications and it means that if we truly care about the souls of our fellow men, then we have a duty to point out instances where the caritas may not have been felt to be flowing as freely as it ought. In such cases all our souls are weakened as the nourishment that Christ gives us through the Church is not as effective. So, please excuse my presumption as I speak out about something I care very strongly about.
Let me provide you with a highly theoretical example. Let us suppose that there is a church in your diocese that is facing closure. You have done all the sums and the Church simply isn’t viable. The building and its presbytery are crumbling and need millions spending on them urgently. The population of the area is over 50% Muslim and the number of Catholic families is falling fast. There is a sizable Catholic population of migrant workers, none of whom contribute significantly to the collection and none of whom can be relied upon to be there year after year. What do you do. How do you go about the closure of the church?
Would you fail to meet up with the stable members of the parish to discuss the matter with them face to face? I’d hope not. Would you keep them guessing using false hope and carefully planted rumours? Surely not. Would you drop the bombshell that the church is definitely closing by announcing it at a deanery meeting without ever seeing the members of the parish concerned? No, you would not.
As we are all agreed about what not to do. Let’s now turn to what could be done.
A Catholic church is not just a building where a religious service takes place. Primarily it houses the Blessed Sacrament that is the source and summit of all we are and do. This home for the Blessed Sacrament has been lovingly cared for over the years by armies of members of the Church Militant. The have invested their care, love and income into making it a fitting place. Many of these souls can be of very modest means and devote a disproportionate amount of time and money into this sacred place.
As a Bishop, naturally you should be seen to be praying for these souls. You should be meeting with the current parishioners to decide where precious artifacts could be rehoused, and deciding what will happen to plaques in memorial chapels and such like. You would lovingly involve your brothers and sisters in Christ with the difficult and painful process of letting go but making sure that the souls of those who came closer to God through the sacraments performed in that building would long be remembered and celebrated. You would be a father to them in difficult times.
I’m glad you agree.
My dear Bishops, we have a problem. So many of us feel the weight of your paperwork more than we feel your love. We do so very much need to feel your love. At each and every Mass we pray for you, let those prayers storm heaven, let those prayers be truly heart felt rather than glib responses. We must all pray harder for you and love you more and love you unconditionally. You need our love more than ever.
I’ll finish with one quick point; nobody is likely to get to heaven because of a pronouncement a Bishop makes about Climate Change, but someone may very well come closer to heaven through the loving instruction and faithful teaching of their Bishop, their successor to the Apostles.