December 31, 2014 by eneubauer
In my first installment in a series reflecting on Pope Francis’ Christmas address to the Roman Curia I put forward the idea that his message was not solely for the Curia but a good message for the faithful as well. In addition, the Christmas season is a perfect time to step back and reflect. Which of the ailments applies to me and why?
Let me be honest, I think one of the most difficult aspects of our Catholic faith is honest self-reflection. Simply stated, it’s no fun looking deep within for those things / thoughts that are abhorrent to God and create a chasm between us and Jesus. Hence, confession of our sins is our vehicle to forgiveness, healing and spiritual maturity. Remember, heartfelt honesty is required as part of our lived faith if we desire to grow in an intimate relationship with Christ.
The first ailment Pope Francis draws our attention to is this, “…the sickness of considering oneself ‘immortal’, ‘immune’ or ‘indispensable’, neglecting the necessary and habitual controls.” He reminds us that a growing body is:
- Self-Critical – A call to honest self reflection, rejection of sin and a desire to run from those habits that draw us away from a relationship with Christ.
- Up-to-Date – A recognition that we are learners and a call to be a keen observer of that which is around us. We should not be taken off guard in ignorance of culture, politics, current events and knowledge of our faith.
- Better Oneself – Whatever our role is and where ever we are at in our faith we should constantly be seeking to grow.
The Pope is calling the Church to be humble, well formed, participate in a type of catechesis that challenges us to grow in our faith, family and professional life.
The second ailment is “’Martha-ism’, or excessive industriousness; the sickness of those who immerse themselves in work, inevitably neglecting ‘the better part’ of sitting at Jesus’ feet.” This is a call to rest and relaxation – giving oneself space to think and dream. No matter what article I read, whether it is for the development of professional expertise or spiritual enlightenment, I am constantly hearing the same message. We are too busy for our own good. Leaders from all sides are drawing the same conclusions. We have to make space to calm the mind and carefully consider what is ahead if we truly want to grow and develop as human beings.
The third ailment mentioned by the Pope is, “the sickness of mental and spiritual
hardening: that of those who, along the way, lose their inner serenity, vivacity and boldness and conceal themselves behind paper, becoming working machines rather than men of God.” As a former Protestant pastor and Director of Pastoral Ministries in a Catholic parish, I can attest to just how easy it is to get “caught up” in the administrative work of the ministry. All of us get caught up, as the disciples did, in figuring out the “how” rather than immersing ourselves in the simple, “doing” and “being” of ministry. We are called to remember that people, their lives and problems really matter. The Church, its leaders and lay ministers (all of us) are called to walk alongside people, to embrace their concerns and place special emphasis on the “least of these” (especially the poor). I am a strong advocate of a well educated, professional clergy and staff. However, that should not be at the expense of caring for, walking alongside and discipling PEOPLE.
I would love to hear your thoughts – more installments to come!