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So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.—2 Thessalonians 2:15

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Agony In The Garden. Really?

A caption at a prominent Catholic blog I generally respect and look to for guidance labels the recent inter-religious dialogue hosted on the Vatican grounds as the "Agony in the Garden", an obvious reference to Jesus' suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane. Is the reference intended to suggest the meeting caused Jesus suffering or, perhaps, caused injury to the individual who applied the caption?


CNA image

Having read hundreds of comments at various blogs, many ultra-traddies (who, unfortunately, are giving tradition-minded Catholics a bad name) disapprove of the Holy Father's gesture of hospitality. One can understand how the Pope's gesture might cause concern to those who are intimidated by the head of the Church hosting non-Christian gatherings at the Vatican. That the meeting was held outside in the gardens and did not water down the Faith in any way, shape or form, should assuage many doubts or threats to one's confidence in the Holy Father. Furthermore, does anyone think that the Patriarch of Constantinople would have attended the gathering if asked to compromise his faith?

Sadly, in many cases commenters seem comfortable, or are made comfortable by a frustration that lacks foundation, to mock the Holy Father's call to prayer. Many commenters characterize the attempts to bridge the divide between the two main players, Palestinians and Israeli's, as a waste of time, a mere trading of nice words with little substance and little promise of a tangible positive outcome, etc. Talk can be cheap, but peace has to begin somewhere. Peace, like any bridge, must be constructed. The construction of peace begins with a foundation of trust.

There is a lesson for politicians and patriarchs alike to be gleaned from the Holy Father's example. The Bishop of Rome is the only leader who can do what he has done. This recent meeting confirms the office and power given by Christ to Saint Peter and his successors to be reconcilers among the nations. With all due respect, this role was not given to the leaders of the World Council of Churches, the Patriarchs of Constantinople or Moscow, nor any secular power, the Dalai Lama or any other religious leader. Just as Peter was selected by Jesus to strengthen the brethren and point all people to Him, not merely as some honorific but a call to sacrifice his (Peter's) life in the manner of His Master to salvation in Christ, the Bishop of Rome is not merely "first among equals". That appellation attributes to the Office of Peter a notion foreign to the Gospel, i.e., an offering of pride of place among the Apostles based upon a form of honour explicitly and repeatedly rejected by Christ. The notion that Peter's place was merely a position of honour was not accepted by the early Church, especially Pope Saint Leo the Great! Peter is the Christ-appointed pontiff, the bridge builder: pons (bridge) + facere (to do, to make). Peter the Bishop of Rome and his successors alone possess the Keys to the Kingdom. In other words, Peter was given real power to hand on to his successors, the power to bind and loose, real authority exercised in the Church for the good of souls. The Office of Peter was established by Jesus Christ, not by mere mortals. The Office of Peter commands our obedience because Peter has been entrusted the God-protected authority of Jesus Christ, the eternal High Priest and Head of the Church.

Bearing in mind the above, one should take confidence in the Holy Father's sponsorship of the recent meeting at the Vatican. That said, here are a few questions for any Catholic naysayers:
  • Since when is prayer a waste of time?
  • How is hope kindled if not by offering signs of hope and building trust?
  • How does one build trust between warring factions if not by offering a refuge of peace and dialogue where people can speak their minds, be encouraged to behave like civilized citizens of the world and express the concerns of their suffering peoples?
Change for the Palestinians and Israelis will only come about when both parties can verify security for their respective people. In other words, both Israelis and Palestinians must feel safe before change can begin. You can only trust another when you know his heart. To discover another person's heart you must walk with him, share his sufferings and listen to him. The truth must be spoken in love in order for justice to be possible. For those reasons, prayer and dialogue are never a waste of time.

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"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.

We are not just material beings, but spiritual persons with a need for meaning, purpose, and fulfillment that transcends the visible confines of this world. This longing for transcendence is a longing for truth, goodness, and beauty. Truth, goodness, and beauty are called the transcendentals of being, because they are aspects of being. Everything in existence has these transcendentals to some extent. God, of course, as the source of all truth, goodness, and beauty, has these transcendentals to an infinite degree. Oftentimes, He draws us to Himself primarily through one of these transcendentals. St. Augustine, who was drawn to beauty in all its creaturely forms, found the ultimate beauty he was seeking in God, his creator, the beauty “ever ancient, ever new.”―Sister Gabriella Yi, O.P.