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Following Pope Francis’ example of openness, collaboration, and concelebration with people of other faiths and denominations

This past week Pope Francis acted as a brother and a leader rather than taking his cues from the loud naysayers on Twitter/X.

An excerpt follows. Read more at:

Just like Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI before him, he (Pope Francis) gathered with prelates and pastors of the mainline Christian denominations on January 25 — the Fest of the Conversion of St. Paul — for ecumenical Vespers in the Papal Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls. And “my brother, Archbishop Justin”, as the pope called him, was among them and even preached after Francis delivered a homily on Luke 10:25-37.We’re familiar with this passage. It’s one of those numerous occasions in the Gospels when the “doctors of the law” try to lay a trap for Jesus. In this episode, one of them asks him, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus turns it back on this “canon lawyer”, and asks him what the law has to say on the matter. “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself,” the lawyer says. Jesus congratulates him. But the man wants to “justify” himself and asks a further question: “And who is my neighbor?” Again, it’s aimed at tripping up Jesus. And at this point Jesus responds by narrating the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The pope’s homily is marvelous and it’s worth carefully reading and meditating upon it.(

What can I get, and how can I divide?

Francis points out that the doctor of the law doesn’t want to “learn anything from Jesus”. He only wants “to test him”. The pope says this religious authority’s”greater insincerity” is asking what he can “get” or “possess” from God. “These are the signs of a distorted religiosity based on getting rather than giving, in which God becomes a means to obtaining what I want, rather than an end to be loved with all our heart,” the pope says. This religious scholar then answers Jesus’ question about what the law says, and then presses Jesus to explain who is one’s “neighbor”. The pope’s exegesis is poignant. “If the first question risked reducing God to our own needs, this question attempts to divide: to separate people into those we should love and those we should shun. This kind of division is never from God; it is from the devil, who divides,” he says.The parable, of course, is about a poor fellow who gets robbed and beaten up and is left for dead at the side of the road. A priest and another pious person go to lengths to ignore him, while a Samaritan, someone these two devoutly religious men detest precisely because he is not religious, is the one who helps the beaten up man. “The people who failed to do good, who proved callous, were the priest and the Levite, who were more concerned with respecting their religious traditions than with coming to the aid of a suffering person,” the pope said. “The one who demonstrates what it means to be a ‘neighbor’ is instead a heretic, a Samaritan,” he added.

The compassion of the “heretic”

And what does this “heretic” do? “He draws near, he feels compassion, he bends down and gently tends the wounds of that brother. He is concerned for him, regardless of his past and his failings, and he puts himself wholly at his service,” said Francis. Hearing these words, one cannot but wonder if the pope was addressing them to those in his own Church — the “staunch”, “traditional”, “loyal”, and “practicing” Catholics — who have criticized him for showing compassion and openness and hospitality to people who are non-believers; for treating non-Catholics as if they are a part us — not divided from us — and allowing them to worship according to their own customs in our church buildings.”The right question is not: ‘Who is my neighbour?’ but ‘Do I act like a neighbour?’,” the pope said. And this is a key question for our efforts to reconstitute the unity of the one, but fractured Church of Jesus Christ. “Only a love that becomes gratuitous service, only the love that Jesus taught and embodied, will bring separated Christians closer to one another,” Francis said.

Christian unity and the “symphony of humanity”

Again, one asks, what kind of love in concrete terms? The pope responded on the final day of the Octave for Christian Unity with these words:Only that love, which does not appeal to the past in order to remain aloof or to point a finger, only that love which in God’s name puts our brothers and sisters before the ironclad defense of our own religious structures, only that love will unite us. First our brothers and sisters, then the structures.In Fratelli tutti, his encyclical “on human fraternity”, Francis spells out the dire consequences the world faces if we refuse to see ourselves and live more responsibly and charitably as one big human family. During ecumenical Vespers at St. Paul’s Outside the Wall, he pointed out (if tacitly) that Christians must be a model and example of this. Here is what he said:For each baptized person is a member of the one Body of Christ; what is more, everyone in this world is my brother or my sister, and all together we compose that “symphony of humanity” of which Christ is the Firstborn and Redeemer. As Saint Irenaeus, whom I had the joy of proclaiming the “Doctor of Unity”, observed: “One who seeks the truth should not concentrate on the differences between one note and another, thinking as if each was created separately and apart from the others; instead, he should realize that one and the same person composed the entire melody” (Adv. Haer., II, 25, 2).Pope Francis’ challenge to the “heresy hunters” in any denomination — and to all of us — is to seriously ask ourselves this question: “Do I, and then my community, my Church, my spirituality, act like a neighbour?”

Blessings on you all, through Spirit Unbounded and your own organisations and faith expressions, who continue to welcome and serve!

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