I cannot see the whole picture

Welcome to Wales, or at least to a Welsh word; Hiraeth! It means a protest which expresses a longing for home. But a home that is unattainable. To feel hiraeth is to feel a deep incompleteness and recognize it as familiar.

Today we do not like incompleteness. SHOPRITE thrives on responding to our every need. The marketing world searches for empty niches in our thirst for completeness. We like to insure ourselves against anything unforeseen.

But this desire for self-sufficiency runs the danger of closing us off from hiraeth, a state where, in the words of Augustine’s, “our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee (God).” Restlessness is a good thing! A healthy thing! It exposes us to be at ease with our incompleteness.

The Pharisees, in the gospel, are good examples of people who wanted to provide an answer to everything. The way Jesus kept pushing out the boundaries unsettled them. At one point they tried to force Jesus to answer a trick question; “is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar?” Wonderfully, he threw the question back at them, calling them to give honour to God and due respect to the state. They had to make up their own minds and there would be no tidy answer – only incomplete ones.

Pope Francis was the subject of a radio programme this week entitled, provocatively, “Is the Pope a Catholic?” The programme explored his “incomplete” answer to the question, should divorced and remarried Catholics be welcomed to Holy Communion? Knowing the centuries old default position of the Church to have answers for everything, and knowing the default position of many Catholics that they expect the Church to have an answer to everything, the pope broke new ground by handing the question to priests to decide in individual cases. He invited them to accompany people on their journey and if, after careful examination of the situation, they feel this person’s longing to receive Communion should be granted, they may welcome them to receive.

Some, who have grown up accustomed to the Church’s black and white answers on such issues, feel deeply uncomfortable with this “grey” response. Yet Francis is motivated by compassion, not a desire for neat answers for every situation. It is not difficult to see how Jesus did the same many times. He had no interest in “applying the law” to the woman caught in an act of adultery when he saw her desire to change her ways.

Pope Francis, as the programme referred to recognised, is only opening wider the window Pope John unlocked more than fifty years ago. It took all those years because such changes are hard to make, as the reaction to Francis’ decision shows. But he is reminding us of our incompleteness and telling us it is OK! We can live with our hiraeth and look forward to the day when all will be complete in Christ.

22 October 2017       Sunday 29 A.     Isaiah 45:1…6        1 Thes 1:1-5        Matt 22:15-21

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Post published in: Faith
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  1. Andy Kadir-Buxton

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