March 16, 2009
The prophetic call, whether to Elisha, Jesus, the apostles or you and me, is a call to take risks in order to reduce the greatest risk–that men and women lose their eternal souls. Here, Jesus tells the truth about his fellow Jews to the Jews and almost pays the ultimate price. I am afraid that even in this country, where the first amendment is supposed to guarantee freedom of speech and religion, a Christian leader risks perhaps everything–at least inconvenience–for preaching the truths of the Gospel.
Pope Benedict’s exhortation on the Eucharist, in turning to its relationship to the sacrament of matrimony, confronts head-on what he calls “a real scourge for contemporary society. . .one which increasingly affects the Catholic community.” It is the “painful [situation] experienced by some of the faithful who, having celebrated the sacrament of Matrimony, then divorced and remarried.” Why may these brothers and sisters, many of good will, not receive the sacraments? The Pope reminds us all that “ their state and their condition of life objectively contradict the loving union of Christ and the Church signified and made present in the Eucharist.”
He continues, however. The divorced and remarried continue to belong to the Church, which accompanies them with special concern and encourages them to live as fully as possible the Christian life through regular participation at Mass, albeit without receiving communion, listening to the word of God, eucharistic adoration, prayer, participation in the life of the community, honest dialogue with a priest or spiritual director, dedication to the life of charity, works of penance, and commitment to the education of their children. He confirms what I call one of the great works of pastoral empathy, the local tribunals that help to establish if the first marriage was a valid sacrament, and do so expeditiously. He reminds all of us that this is not some kind of “Catholic divorce.” the fundamental point of encounter between the law and pastoral care is love for the truth: truth is never something purely abstract, but "a real part of the human and Christian journey of every member of the faithful" Even when our witness to the sanctity of marriage is condemned by the media, we must be faithful to it. That witness can bring many people back to the Church.