“Pope Francis’ bid to set the Catholic Church on an evangelising path has called forth a remarkable opposition from rigorists & traditionalists, which to a remarkable degree echoes Jesus’s conflict with the Pharisees & other religious elites. Although the Pharisees accused Jesus of failure to uphold the law, in many respects, famously over divorce, they were more lax than Jesus. The underlying issues was not adherence to law & tradition but how these were deployed, for what end & for whose good. As the gospels depict them, the Pharisees saw themselves as gatekeepers, the guardians, who derived their sense of worth & social standing from their fidelity & observances. Their goodness, or righteousness, was their achievement, not God’s. God’s covenant was Israel’s possession a way of demarcating Jews from everyone else, not a channel for saving humanity. In Francis’s distinction, bad Pharisees [there were, in the Gospels, many good ones] were intermediaries not mediators. In his Jesuit writings Bergoglio showed how in Jesus the law & the tradition become dynamic instruments for salvation- integrating, forgiving & healing- offered to all people, especially those who are poor & on the edge, rather than a wall-building exercise in the service of an exclusive religious nationalism. In challenging the Pharisees to conversion, Jesus was not setting out to change or water down the doctrine & the law, but to change their hearts, their way of seeing, that they might cease to arrogate the divine power & instead become facilitators. He wanted His disciples to replace the narrow, fuzzy, myopic spectacles of the doctors of the law with the wide-angled lens of the heart of the Good Shepherd, to apply the law as an instrument not of control but of God’s healing & grace, via discernment [the way of Jesus] rather than legalism [the way of the bad Pharisees]. In the contemporary Catholic rigorists’ desire for a clearly demarcated boundary between those “inside” & those “outside” the Church’s economy of salvation, Francis saw a clear parallel with the elite religious “parties” in Israel at the time of Jesus.” [inside/outside..swaledale/herdwick..owner occupier/migrant..familiar & challenging territory?] “the point appeared to be proved by the ferocity of the opposition to Francis, which has come mostly from the self-certified “faithful” or “orthodox” Catholics, who feel betrayed abandoned & slighted by him. Jesus’s parables, the elder brother of the prodigal son, or the vineyard workers who are indignant at receiving the same wages as those who worked less, describe the type; loyal, faithful people who have come to believe in their merit & wish to be recognised, who want the Church to declare that they are innocent & others are guilty. They expect, at least, a pat on the head from the Pope, yet they find he criticises them for their rigidity & judgementalism while reaching out to embrace those whose records should disqualify them from even getting close to him. Just as the heart of Jesus’s dispute with the Pharisees was over the boundaries of God’s grace, the locus of Francis’s tension with the rigorists has been access to the sacraments. In declaring that the Eucharist was “not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine & nourishment for the weak” Evangelii Gaudium echoed Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini’s famous final interview, posthumously published in Sept 2012, in which the Jesuit Archbishop of Milan said the sacraments “are not a disciplinary instrument, but a help for people at times on their journey, in life’s weaknesses.” [“the Wounded Shepherd”; Pope Francis & his Struggle to Convert the Catholic Church; Austen Ivereigh]
In the next week we have two blessings, two Weddings; this Saturday in OL&SB Laura Willis [daughter of Marie & David ] marries Ryan Jordan at 130pm in a full Church, & next Saturday 21 Aug 2021, Emmanuelle Toone [daughter of Amanda & Robert] marries Calum MacFarlane-Barrow in the Abbey Church at 2pm. Please keep both couples, their families & guests in your prayers.
Last weekend was the first for 18 months under covid restrictions where we didn’t have the booking arrangements for Mass attendance & it seemed to work well. Do please continue to sign in on our track & trace register as you come into Church or leave. We ask you to sanitise your hands as you come & leave please, & as you choose a pew, please be conscious of the need to maintain social distancing [2m distance side to side & a clear bench between anyone in front or behind you.]