Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Never Room!

Watching the funeral today of Coretta Scott King many memories and images came to my heart as I am sure they did for millions of others, most especially for her and Doctor Martin Luther King’s children.

Certainly those of us over the age of sixty in particular have vivid memories of the pre and 1968 world.

Some pretty stark memories at that.

One of the great influences in my life, who died some time ago, was a young priest in those days. More than once, because of his walking with Dr. King and integrating his own parish, he was beaten up by those who choose to hide beneath sheets and move about in the shadows.

To see the very dream of Dr. King of the white and black, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim children of God gathered together unfolding today in the honouring of Mrs. King, was certainly for me a most powerful image of hope.

Which brings me to the powerful sermon of Bernice King: her plea for human repentance and solidarity; her challenge to Christians to rise up and transform the kingdoms of this world into the Kingdom of God.

This sang in my heart as a reminder of the urgent plea of St. Pius X that we “restore all things to Christ.”

Preacher King’s words about the entrapment of greed moved me to reflect on another powerful preaching which I have been meditating upon these many days, line by line: “Deus Caritas Est” of Pope Benedict.

The line which most strikes my heart today is: …..within the community of believers there can never be room for a poverty that denies anyone what is needed for a dignified life. {Deus Caritas Est }

The implications of this teaching, to my mind and heart, are as far reaching, and as the Church pilgrimages through the ages, as forward moving as the horizon.

The first question I must ask is not a question which challenges the political, economic or ecclesiastical systems in which I find myself as a baptized person, but rather how do my personal choices protect from poverty, or if need be rescue from poverty, my brothers and sisters?

Bishops and priests who are not members of religious orders are not vowed to poverty, however the Second Vatican Council urges us to conform ourselves to the very poverty Christ embraced for us.
This powerful word from the Council which was seared on my heart decades ago when I first meditated upon it: Led by the Spirit of the Lord, who anointed the Saviour and sent Him to evangelize the poor, priests, therefore, and also bishops, should avoid everything which in any way could turn the poor away. Before the other followers of Christ, let priests set aside every appearance of vanity in their possessions. Let them arrange their homes so that they might not appear unapproachable to anyone, lest anyone, even the most humble, fear to visit them. {Presbyterorum Ordinis.}

There follows then, in particular from the unambiguous declaration that bishops and priests “..should avoid everything which in any way could turn the poor away.”:

Why are those impoverished in their dignity of life by abuse forced to see massive amounts of monies go to lawyers in the struggle for just compensation?

Why are those priests who admittedly have been guilty of abuse, and likewise those merely accused, being impoverished by an ecclesiastical institution which appears in many instance to have forgotten the Gospel principles of forgiveness, welcoming, clothing, feeding, restoring the prodigal?

Why do we not sell off everything we need to in order to provide such secure and complete alternatives for women that no child would ever be aborted because of fear of poverty or the poverty of fear?

Why are we not challenging the richer parishes to open their hearts and resources so poor inner city or small rural parishes can remain open; or if we must close places, why not take the monies made from the sale of land and buildings to, with love’s imagination, find some replacement sacred and beautiful space for those who suffer the loss of life’s dignity of the familiar, the close, the communal, the traditional sacred space, which has been there for generations?


If, as Pope Benedict truthfully, powerfully, teaches “ there can never be room” within the believing community for: “ a poverty that denies ANYONE “ that which is needed for “ a dignified life”, then it seems to me the first step is to beg the Holy Spirit for the courage to ask all possible “why” questions and not to allow any fear to impoverish our hearts or wills, so that our active and exceedingly generous participation in the fullness of “diaconia” will be so complete we shall finally, as community and individuals, become real servants of the Gospel, of one another, of Christ.

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