The first keynote today was in Spanish and we would have needed a transistor radio to get the simultaneous translation…oops…too bad that was something we forgot to pack, but a little time off was fine with me.
The first breakout session that I attended was by Dr. Daniel Mark, university prof. of law and political science and Orthodox Jew. The topic was Home Improvement…forgiveness and mercy in family life. The talk was brilliant. Seriously, Dr. Mark may be Jewish but his knowledge and understanding of the Catholic faith was astounding…better than many(if not most) Catholics. Or, perhaps he was just speaking on a truth that is so common to our two traditions they resonate on a similar wave length.
If I was to pick a few major things to share with you about Dr. Mark’s talk–aside from the fact that he knew about our tradition of Forgiveness Vespers, which I was very impressed with– it would be that love and forgiveness must always be combined with ‘truth telling’ To have the courage to tell the truth in love and to hear the truth about ourselves, from those we love is one of the great gifts of family that while messy, is essential to our growth. Also that in this messy business of family life we need the church. Why? because it is in the Church that we repeatedly experience Christ’s sacrificial love for us, in the Divine Liturgy and His forgiveness in the sacrament in reconciliation even when we don’t deserve it, which is the model of love and forgiveness we are meant to emulate in our marriage and family life.
As great as it was, Dr. Mark’s talk was really only the warm up for the ‘main event’ of Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle’s talk on the Family: A Home for the Wounded Heart. A wounded heart is a wounded person, and we are all wounded–and there is a litany of types of wounds which we bear. Our wounds make us vulnerable to bitterness, alienation and evil. Alienation is what makes us feel that we don’t know who we are or where we belong–the net effect is that we can become ‘homeless’ even when we have a very nice house to live in. This puts a whole new slant on homelessness as being an even more pervasive problem than one might think of in material terms–if we define a home as one where there is a ‘loving presence’.
Cardinal Luis then spoke of Christ in the gospels as the one who would search out the lost and homeless and “carry them home” to His Kingdom of love and mercy. Christ no only saves us from our weakness and vulnerability but He does it by taking on our wounds and transforming them into the triumph of love. This picture of Christ, the sinless one, taking on our wounds and through that healing and carrying us home to His kingdom of love made me weep. “Blessed is the Kingdom of (love) the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” AMEN!!!! Okay so why do people not feel that love when they enter our Churches? Well Cardinal Tagle had some practical suggestions from Joseph Kelly on how to become that “field hospital” for the wounded, that Pope Francis likes to reference:
- First we must centre all our relationships, our lives and activities on the Chief Physician –Jesus Christ. (This may sound basic, but it is clear that we often forget it and we must always re-orient ourselves as with out our compass being set to the ‘true’ north we can easily get lost. Remember from yesterday that mercy has a face.)
- Next we need to face our own woundedness. (This is even more difficult, but it is absolutely essential. Courage to be vulnerable and humility are required. This hearkens back to the ‘truth telling’ that Dr. Mark was mentioning as a hallmark of family health.)
- We need to be completely fearless in facing the darkness and messiness of our lives. (This is about the authenticity that young people, in particular, but all of us can sense and respond to–we all have pretty sensitive B.S. meters–Cardinal Mark did not say this, it is my take on his statement.)
- We need to be ready to respond to emergencies. (It is less clear to me how we do this, even though I believe with my whole heart he is correct. I am guessing that it has a lot to do with making time for people and personal relationships. That being the case it requires the whole community to be “on call” with a solidarity we have never seen the likes of in our lifetime but is why the community in Rome at the time of the persecutions would comment on the Christians and how they would love one another.)
- We need to infuse our field hospital with hope–we cannot be “grumpy” Christians. We have heard a bit about this right? Something about the “Joy of the Gospel” from a Pope named Francis???? Our field hospital needs to be infused with HOPE. This means our lives and hearts need to be infused with HOPE–See point #1.
- We must always exercise discernment. This means we must learn to listen and be sensitive to the wounds of others. We do not always have the answers (mostly we can leave that to God) but we can be a “loving presence” and let the hurting know that they do not ‘cry alone’–let them know they have a home in the Church.
This is how “Families Evangelize Families”–yes it is messy, but we don’t give up on each other, because we are family!