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Normally, the release of the instrumentum laboris (working paper) for a World Synod of Bishops attracts no mainstream media attention and little in the Catholic press. This time it is different because of expectations that the double synod (2014 and 2015) on the family may lead to greater acceptance at the Eucharistic table for those divorced and remarried without an annulment. Some media commentaries have not been enlightening. It is startling to read that the biggest problem facing families today is, in effect, that the Church continues to preach the Gospel. If the Church would only drop its teachings on contraception, same-sex marriage and the permanency of marriage, so the argument goes, the world would be better off.
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A vocation, any vocation, is a mystery, one whose meaning is slowly, but only partially, revealed to us over the course of our lives. Human vision is always extremely limited in the context of God's entire plan; fears, sinfulness and desires also limit our perspective. Yet, we know from the testimony of priests and religious that often the call to a life of ordained or consecrated ministry is resisted, sometimes strongly. We also know from the testimony of religious in the autumn of their lives that they have experienced great joy from turning their lives totally over to God through service to his Church.
While Dante Alighieri was but a minor player in Italian politics of the late 13th century, it is through his Divine Comedy that the lasting reputations of many of the wealthy and powerful of that era have been framed. The pen may not be mightier than the sword, but its scribblings have more staying power. It is through the Divine Comedy that we see, for example, several popes of that era finding an everlasting home in hell because of their use of spiritual power to increase their temporal power and wealth.
There's a story in the Hindu tradition that runs something like this: God and a man are walking down a road. The man asks God: "What is the world like?" God answers: "I'd like to tell you, but my throat is parched. I need a cup of cold water. If you can go and get me a cup of cold water, I'll tell you what the world is like." The man heads off to the nearest house to ask for a cup of cold water. He knocks on the door and it is opened by a beautiful young woman. He asks for a cup of cold water. She answers: "I will gladly get it for you, but it's just time for the noon meal, why don't you come in first and eat." He does.
It was hitting 3 a.m. CBC radio kept me company. Half listening, my mind tackled a myriad of mini-problems. The man being interviewed on the radio raised his voice. I started to listen. Impassioned, at times strident, obviously a medical doctor, he told the interviewer the story of a patient. A legitimate refugee from Africa, mother of three children, she was joyfully expecting her fourth wee one.
It is now over three months since the close of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) event in Alberta. It was a time of listening and learning for both aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples. The theme of wisdom was chosen for the Alberta TRC event. One important aboriginal wisdom teaching is respect for all creation. The Alberta bishops in their ecology statement highlight the significance of this teaching: "We can learn much from the spiritual traditions of our aboriginal brothers and sisters which celebrate our kinship with the rest of creation and seek to strengthen the sacred circle of all creation."
It took me a while to understand that the Mass readings should be read and meditated on in their entirety, not a la carte. If we read the texts in the order presented, we are offered a chance to walk the way of faith from the beginning – from the childhood of Old Testament to adulthood of the New. Thus, the holy texts, which this Sunday refer to the rise of the kingdom of God, begin with Solomon's plea for wisdom which is presented as the ability to distinguish right from wrong.
Lately my three-year-old granddaughter and I have been having a conversation. It goes something like this: "Madi, you have to listen to your Mom, and do what she says. "If you want to have a happy day, then you need to listen. Your day will go better and you will get more of the things you want when you listen to your Mom."
I hate drama. Admittedly, it sometimes comes with the territory given the clinical and operational realities of Catholic health care. But I subscribe to a preventative ethics strategy whereby through investing our energies in preventing ethical conflict we can spare much unnecessary drama and hardship, including moral compromise. One issue where this applies is the ethics of power.