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Father Muench Says...

Spending year-end time with our pope

January 7, 2015

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

On Christmas Eve, I didn’t have the opportunity to watch and spiritually take part in Pope Francis’ Christmas Mass.  However, I did find its replay on the internet just yesterday.

I spent part of my afternoon being part of that Mass.  The Pope’s homily was wonderful;  I found it most meaningful.

In that homily, Pope Francis often used the word, “tenderness.”  He spoke often of the tenderness of God – and well as the patience of God and the closeness of God.  He said this: “the tenderness of God demonstrates how much God is in love with us – even in our smallness.” 

The whole Christmas story shows us this tenderness of God.

It starts with the image of the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph that we enshrine in our Christmas scenes.  We see it in the crèches in Church and in so many Christmas cards.  Truly, it is an image of tenderness.  The world was anxious for a Savior, for a Messiah and many hoped this Savior would come with power and might.  Instead, Our Savior comes in tenderness.  “A child is born to us.”Pope Francis then challenges us.  He asks, “How do we welcome the tenderness of God?”  He answers the question for us – “allowing him to find me, to love me.”
Many times I have been asked this same question – how and where do I find God.  If we are open and caring, God will find us and guide us and lead us to God’s love and peace.  So we struggle to develop this openness that is free of distractions.

You and I live in a world, in a culture, that is jammed with distractions.  So, again in the words of Pope Francis – “what is most important is not seeking him, but rather allowing him to find me and caress me with tenderness.  Do I allow God to love me?”

Quite a question for us – “do I allow God to love me?”  How well do I keep open to the love of my God?” 

Pope Francis suggests that we live in tenderness especially toward those who are near us, knowing the difficulties and problems of those near us.  We live now in a world that needs tenderness today.  Our example is the Pope himself.  Pope Francis has come to us smiling, demonstrating a true example of God’s love. He truly loves people.  He encourages and challenges us all – that we be always ready to listen and care.  There is indeed a tenderness that comes through each of his talks.

As we enter this New Year my attention is on Pope Francis and on the Synod on the Family.  This synod began with a preliminary session this past October and will be completed with another session in November of this year. During this coming year, the Bishops have been encouraged to survey and listen to the people in their dioceses.  This Pope wants to know what people are thinking.  The question now is “how can the Catholic Church better support and guide families?”

Pope Francis sets the tone for the synod with his closing talk at the close of the first session. Pope Francis said this, “I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interjections full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage.  And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the supreme law, the good of souls.”

This synod is an important time for our Church.  The call is to bring new life to the church through the lives of our families. As the Church considers family life, there is also a call to make each parish a family. Our Catholic Church must be a family.  Jesus in his ministry made it clear to all that he met – “what can I do for you?”

Pope Francis adds this to his talk at the close of the Synod – “This is the Church, one, holy, catholic, apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy.”

“This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine.”
“It is the Church that is not afraid to dine with prostitutes and publicans.  The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitents and not just those who believe they are perfect.”

“The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to life him up and encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her spouse in the heavenly Jerusalem.”

“This is the Church, our Mother.”

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