Friday, 30 September 2011

Shattering Stereotypes

On the last day of his four-day visit to Germany, the Holy Father gave a homily that demonstrated very clearly that the stereotypes of him and of the Catholic Church so beloved by some in the media, and sadly by some Christians, are totally wrong.

These stereotype views have sometimes been expressed directly to some of us.  There are people who say that the Catholic Church is a harsh place, full of impossible rules, unwelcoming to people who live in the "real world" and lead "real lives".  Well, Pope Benedict's words in Freiburg directly contradict that assertion.

Addressing the crowd of 100,000 on the Gospel of the day, in which Our Lord concludes a parable by sayng to the supposed faithful that prostitutes and publicans will go before them into the Kingdom of Heaven because they believed, whereas the faithful who had heard the message did not repent, the Holy Father expressed this same concept in modern terms.
Translated into the language of our time, this statement might sound something like this: agnostics, who are constantly exercised by the question of God, those who long for a pure heart but suffer on account of our sin, are closer to the Kingdom of God than believers whose life of faith is “routine”and who regard the Church merely as an institution, without letting their hearts be touched by faith.
With these words, the Holy Father showed very clearly that there is a place for everyone, and that people such as he talked about, with "real lives" in the "real world" as his critics would say, should not feel that they are excluded from the love of God, and should not feel that the Catholic Church looks down on them.  They are closer to the Kingdom of God than many who might claim to be more godly or more devout, those who in fact lead a superficial life in which their faith is expressed in no more than routine.

Today we commemorate St Jerome, priest and Doctor of the Church.  St Jerome was an astonishing character, no stranger to controversy (whether in theological debate or in suffering rumours about his personal life), very well travelled, renowned for his fiery temper and recognised throughout the ages for his God-given intellect and talent.

He is perhaps most well known for his achievement of the Vulgate Bible, but no less important are his associated work of biblical exegesis and commentary, his sermons and letters, and his constant insistence on focussing only on the original, authentic translations of scripture.

St Jerome, pray for us.

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