Lent 2012: Life, brotherhood, and communion

The good is whatever gives, protects and promotes life, brotherhood and communion.  Pope Benedict XVI. 2012 Lenten Message.

The Holy Father's Lenten Message for 2012 is a must read, and I pray that many of the faithful will hear some of it from the pulpit or read it in their parish bulletins or web sites. As usual, his words astound. I encourage you to read the message in its entirety.

I was particularly struck with the urgency with which he connected caring for our neighbor with two related issues that are dear to him – unity and love. Moreover, it is telling how his words speak so deeply to events here at home in America and within the pro-life world.

As I’ve been posting about recently, we’ve seen schism between those who see life issues as only abortion, euthanasia, and embryonic stem-cell research and others, like the Holy Father, who dare to expand the matter of life to the ecological systems that keep humanity breathing, fed, and happily hydrated. While I understand why my brothers and sisters devoted to ending abortion, etc., wish to keep the wagons circled tightly around a few specific and wantonly deadly issues, I shudder at the lack of loving dialogue that one often finds in needless debates about what is and what is not a pro-life issue.

We also hear voices – most often in the political world – that criticize the science of climate change, and this also brings bickering rather than dialogue.

Enter the Holy Father, who reminds us that there is a Christian way to disagree, and it is rooted in love and a dedication to the truth. 

Scripture tells us that even “the upright falls seven times” (Prov 24:16); all of us are weak and imperfect (cf. 1 Jn 1:8). It is a great service, then, to help others and allow them to help us, so that we can be open to the whole truth about ourselves, improve our lives and walk more uprightly in the Lord’s ways. There will always be a need for a gaze which loves and admonishes, which knows and understands, which discerns and forgives (cf. Lk 22:61), as God has done and continues to do with each of us. 

In other words, since none of us are perfect, each of us needs each other.

Let this Lent, then, be a time of love and dialogue between those who seek Christ’s truths, a search that is related in many ways to understanding how our sinful natures and overconsumption is damaging the goodness and unity of God’s creation. 

As the Holy Father teaches:

 The Lord’s disciples, united with him through the Eucharist, live in a fellowship that binds them one to another as members of a single body. This means that the other is part of me, and that his or her life, his or her salvation, concern my own life and salvation. Here we touch upon a profound aspect of communion: our existence is related to that of others, for better or for worse. Both our sins and our acts of love have a social dimension. This reciprocity is seen in the Church, the mystical body of Christ: the community constantly does penance and asks for the forgiveness of the sins of its members, but also unfailingly rejoices in the examples of virtue and charity present in her midst. As Saint Paul says: “Each part should be equally concerned for all the others” (1 Cor 12:25), for we all form one body. Acts of charity towards our brothers and sisters – as expressed by almsgiving, a practice which, together with prayer and fasting, is typical of Lent – is rooted in this common belonging. Christians can also express their membership in the one body which is the Church through concrete concern for the poorest of the poor. Concern for one another likewise means acknowledging the good that the Lord is doing in others and giving thanks for the wonders of grace that Almighty God in his goodness continuously accomplishes in his children. When Christians perceive the Holy Spirit at work in others, they cannot but rejoice and give glory to the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:16).

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Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.