Dear Synod Fathers:
As you debate and discuss, reflect and pray over the state of marriage and family life in our world, I simply ask that you keep before your mind’s eye the truly revolutionary vision of the Council given to the lay faithful: “All the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called by the Lord, each in his own way, to that perfect holiness whereby the Father Himself is perfect” (LG 11).
The Council told us, the lay faithful, that our path to perfection and sanctity is tightly woven into the web of secular life, where we find ourselves everyday. There we are called to be salt, light and leaven; consecrators of the world and faithful stewards of the temporal order. It is there, deep in the heart of the world, that we discover our path to union with God and serve — by God’s mercy — as witnesses to a world made new in Jesus.
What we lay faithful need to receive from our shepherds is a clear and inspiring vision of what our world-leavening secular sanctity looks like and how we are to live it out. We especially need you to show us how to embody the Church’s social doctrine in our lives, for in it is our unique spiritual charter that awaits a new “secular” edition of the Way of Perfection. Help us to believe that our Cathedral is the public square, the marketplace, the workplace, the field and the home, and that our daily labors and leisures are the living sacrifices God seeks (Rom. 12:1).
We need to hear from you that all our faithful undertakings in the world are holy; that our dedication to marriage and family life is supremely noble; that ours is the great dignity of gathering earthly material for the heavenly Kingdom (GS 38); that our toils constitute the substance of the priestly oblation you offer in every Eucharistic Sacrifice. We need you to encourage us in the arduous work of building a Christ-culture in an increasingly Christ-less world. We need you to take our calling seriously and challenge us to embrace the truth that we are “called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity” (LG 40).
In a word, we need you to help us be saints.
Yet we are weak, we falter and we fail. We cry out with St. Paul: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom 7:24-25).
We need our shepherds to speak to us with the Lord’s own compassionate voice and open to us without reserve the infinite treasuries of mercy that God has entrusted to the Church. That mercy, revealed from the Cross and poured out on Pentecost, was given us by God to heal us, give us a share in the divine life and conform us to the Truth, Jesus Christ. Mercy, born of a crucified and risen God, gives unfailing hope to all whose lives, this side of heaven, are defined by unresolvable tragedy. Having hope that God-is-with-us in tragedy, and that He brings ultimate good out of a broken world, restrains in us the desire to eliminate tragedy by either destroying tragic lives or by tearing down the moral law that maintains tragic tensions. As Pope Francis said so eloquently:
God doesn’t intervene to prevent the tragedies and sufferings of life. If we had a god who simply swooped down as some “deus ex machina” to prevent human tragedy and sinfulness, then religion and faith would simply be reduced to some form of magic or fate, and we would be helpless pawns on the chessboard of some whimsical god. Where is God in the midst of human tragedies? God is there in the midst of it all, weeping. This is our God who stands in deep, human solidarity with us, and through the glory of the Incarnation, embracing fully our human condition.
Fathers, we need you to teach us hope and trust in the midst of tragedy; to proclaim a mercy that does not dispense us from the demands of justice, but reconciles us to them; a mercy that does not shade us from the light of truth, but leads us from darkness into its healing rays; a mercy that does not confirm us in our sin, but pardons our sin and strengthens us in virtue; a mercy that does not abandon us to our dark prisons, but leads the captives to liberty; a mercy that does not leave us beaten and bleeding along the roadside, but tends to our wounds and restores us back to health; a mercy that does not indulge our weakness, but suffuses our weakness with Christ’s strength; a mercy that does not overlook our evils, but overcomes them.
Dear Synod Fathers, become for us in this Synod the very mission of Jesus here and now:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. (Luke 4:18-19)
Then come out to share with us the good news, lead us into Jubilee and bid us: Go, be sent!
We are praying for you.