A blueprint for renewal

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November 3, 2023

A blueprint for renewal

The XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod has ended, and in his homily at the closing Mass, October 29, Pope Francis brought the month-long reflections to an ostensibly simple reminder of what Church should be.

He said, “To adore God and to love our brothers and sisters with His love, that is the great and perennial reform”.

That the world and Trinidad and Tobago are existing in challenging times can perhaps be overstated: we are living it; we already see it; we read about it; we talk about it. We know.

There is a fine line in maintaining awareness of the many prevailing issues and subsequent feelings of anger and frustration at an opposing group/individual, and recognising the responsibilities as Christians to the larger ethos of community. Sometimes, in the midst of the negative, a step back is needed to return one’s centre to Christ.

Pope Francis’ recent message to the assembly of cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and laity carries timeless wisdom that resonates far beyond the confines of any faith.

At the core of his message lies the age-old yet ever-relevant commandment: to love the Lord with all one’s heart and to love one’s neighbour as oneself.

His homily reminds that amid the complexities of life, the fundamental principle from which all else flows is love – love for God and love for one another. Love, he affirms, is the heart of everything.

The Pope placed a spotlight on adoration as the first act of love. To adore is to acknowledge God’s supremacy and to find freedom in that acknowledgment. It is an essential act of worship and an antidote to idolatry.

While the world often tempts us to worship material success, power, and our own desires, true adoration frees us from these false idols. Self-centeredness, self-importance, arrogance, and greed abound, but the call to worship God is a call to humility, selflessness, and self-awareness.

How else can there be growth if there is no recognition of self-limiting behaviour?

There are subtle forms of idolatry that infiltrate our lives, even in our religious practices. Retreats, pilgrimages, Mass attendance, worship are all essential acts of faith but can sometimes feed the ego.

It is possible to leave the mountaintop, and still be dismissive and arrogant to those in the valleys. Worship then becomes mere performance and idolatry where the heart remains unchanged.

Remember, one of the prevailing themes which emerged in the synodal meetings of God’s people, was inhospitality. How can the practice of faith and being inhospitable ever be reconciled?

The Pope warned against the idolatry that stems from vainglory, such as lust for success, greed for money, enticements of careerism; but also, those “forms of idolatry disguised as spirituality: my own spirituality, my religious ideas, my pastoral skills.” Those who worship God reject idols “because whereas God liberates, idols enslave”.

In his powerful and inspirational address, Pope Francis painted a vision of the Church as a servant of all. A Church that welcomes, serves, loves, and forgives, without demanding a rigid standard of “good behaviour.” A Church, he envisions, with open doors, a haven of mercy that reaches out to the most vulnerable.

This, he declared, is the Church we should dream of – one that adheres to the essence of the great commandment. May we heed these words, and as a united human family, adore and serve, embracing a path of love and compassion that transcends any barriers that may divide us.