By Lilla Marie Lottinger
(Columnist’s Note: It is of utmost importance for us as Christians to always have a discerning spirit regarding the secular media’s coverage on Catholic Church events, because most often the reporting is done out of context. Let us be attentive in going to the source and reading first hand the Holy Father’s words [or whatever is being reported on].)
It seems clear.
He’s not knocking those who are promoting pro-life, healthy marriage, moral sexual values. If that were the case he’d be knocking himself, and Mother Church as well.
But the change he is trying to foster is in regards to love… the Holy Spirit of love.
A primary purpose of Vatican II was to “open up the windows and let in the Holy Spirit;” in order that any prudish, puritanical or Pharisaical spirituality could be cleaned out.
John Paul II spoke of his pontificate as a time of fostering the spirit of Vatican II within the Church. And, Pope Benedict took the baton to continue the work. Now Pope Francis, with his personal gifts and personality, is fostering these graces still further, in a yet more hands on, practical way.
Pope Francis is cautioning us within the Church from being so fixed on the rights and wrongs of our faith as to miss out on the heart which is the love of God Himself. “This is what I am asking you,” he emphasizes, “be shepherds with the smell of sheep.”
As we think of the woman caught in adultery (Jn 8:1-11), her encounter with Jesus was one of great mercy and love; and it was in that great mercy and love that He told her, “Go and sin no more.”
This is the message our Holy Father has for us today. It is a challenge for us all to evaluate our way of ministry in this so broken world. Where are our hearts? Are we ministering to/evangelizing others out of the place where we have experienced the redeeming love and grace of Christ in our own hearts and lives?
Or, do we minister out of a more Pharisaical, disintegrated spirit that lops burdens on others by telling them what they are doing wrong without having invited them into the love of God first.
Is it out of our poverty or our “pomp”?
Certainly the former is the method taught by St. Ignatius of Loyola in his spiritual exercises. But it is so easy for us as Catholics to lose site of the need to be continually fostering our own personal communion of life with God, in order that we can truly bring God’s presence to others; and then allow the truths of the faith to follow as the Holy Spirit inspires.
As Pope Francis mentioned, we don’t want to help someone get their cholesterol level in order when they have a huge gaping wound in need of attention first.
Pope John Paul II told us at the beginning of this new millennium to “Put out into the Deep.” And, this is what he means. Those who are “fishers of men” will not be catching any in a real and lasting way unless we go to the deeper level of loving and connecting with others (even if it be primarily in our prayers for them).
And, of course, we can’t go to the deeper level with others unless we do so within our own hearts first.
It is so evident, through work in the inner-healing ministry, that so many who are caught in various forms of sin don’t want to be there; but due to deep wounds of their own upbringing, etc., they are stuck. The strength of their will power has run out, and it can only be the great love and mercy of God that can truly set them free.
It is a fine-line balance that we as Catholics must have in knowing how to rightly love and evangelize others. When are we to use tough love, and when are we to be with and for them in their deep pain and struggles? When are we to pray for them from afar, and when to confront in love?
Mary always lived this balance perfectly in her life on earth, because she was so aware of her own poverty as a creature, and in this was totally open and receptive to the Holy Spirit. And, so they always worked in unison.
Let us call upon her to form us into “other Christs” as well; that we may be His hands, His feet, His heart in this broken and so hurting world; knowing when to throw the “money-changers” out, but also when to love and hold, and be there with a true “listening” heart.
As we grow in awareness of our own brokenness and need for healing, this aids us in being there with and for others with a more real and Christ-like compassion.
And, sometimes to love others is to be one with Jesus in “crying over Jerusalem,” and praying for their return.
+“Come, Holy Spirit, come by means of the powerful intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary!”… May our hearts be open and vulnerable, inviting your love and truth in, that we may know more and more clearly who we are before God, and who we’re called to be with and for others !+