Dialogue. That we may be open to personal encounter and dialogue with all, even those whose convictions differ from our own.
At a meeting in Brazil, Pope Francis said: “When leaders in various fields ask me for advice, my response is always the same: dialogue, dialogue, dialogue.” Why is dialogue so important? “It is the only way for individuals, families, and societies to grow along with the culture of encounter, a culture in which all have something good to give and all can receive something good in return.”
But isn’t Pope Francis’ advice a lowest common denominator approach? Doesn’t it lead to the tyranny of relativism that Pope Benedict XVI warned against?
No. Speaking to the Vatican diplomatic corps after he was elected, Pope Francis said that “the tyranny of relativism makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples.” He warned: “There is no true peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of
others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth.”
Dialogue does not mean denying objective truth, but respecting the dignity of the other person “in a way that everyone can see in the other not an enemy, not a rival, but a brother or sister to be welcomed and embraced.”
We pray for an openness to dialogue on the part of all people so that we may work for the common good. For, as Pope Francis warned the Brazilian leaders, “Today, either we stand together with the culture of dialogue and encounter, or we all lose.”
What have I found helpful in talking with people who strongly disagree with me?
John 4: 1-42 Jesus’ encounter and dialogue with a Samaritan woman.
Pastors. That pastors of the Church, with profound love for their flocks, may accompany them and enliven their hope.
Early images of Jesus depict him as the Good Shepherd. Jesus said that the Good Shepherd not only guards the flock but goes out to search for the lost sheep. When he finds that sheep, he holds it close to his heart and carries it home. Jesus came to seek and to save lost humanity. Each person has infinite value in God’s eyes.
Pope Francis asks us to pray that the Church’s shepherds may follow the example of the Good Shepherd. They should not place themselves above people but should be close to them.
At his first Chrism Mass as pope, the Holy Father’s homily challenged priests in concrete terms: “This I ask you: be shepherds, with the odor of the sheep, make it real, as shepherds among your flock.” Later, in a letter to professors of theology, he wrote, “good theologians, like good shepherds, have the odor of the people and of the street and, by their reflection, pour oil and wine onto the wounds of humanity.”
That last phrase refers to the parable of the Good Samaritan. The world, like the man beaten and robbed and lying in a ditch, is wounded by sin and death. The Church is, in the pope’s words, “a field hospital,” present in the middle of people’s suffering and pain. The Church is there to heal and to offer hope.
The hope the Church offers is not superficial, one that says “Don’t worry. It will get better.” Rather, our hope is ultimate, as in this month of November when we remember our deceased brothers and sisters and rejoice in the Resurrection. Our great hope is that Christ, the Good Shepherd, will hold each of us close to his heart and carry us beyond this life, beyond death, into the eternal happiness of heaven.
In what ways have the bishops and priests that I know been good shepherds?
Luke 15: 1-7 “Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.”
PRAYER OF THE MONTH
Lord, God of Abraham, God of the Prophets, God of Love, you created us and you call us to live as brothers and sisters. Give us the strength daily to be instruments of peace; enable us to see everyone who crosses our path as our brother or sister. Keep alive within us the flame of hope, so that with patience and perseverance we may opt for dialogue and reconciliation. In this way may peace triumph at last, and may the words “division”, “hatred” and “war” be banished from the heart of every man and woman.
--Excerpt from Pope Francis’ Prayer for Peace
Links for November 2015
Pope Francis’ Meeting with Japanese Teachers and Students: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2013/august/documents/papa-francesco_20130821_collegio-saitama-giappone.html
Pope Francis’ Address to the Vatican Diplomatic Corps after his election: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2013/march/documents/papa-francesco_20130322_corpo-diplomatico.html
Pope Francis’ Address to Brazilian Leaders on July 27, 2013: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2013/july/documents/papa-francesco_20130727_gmg-classe-dirigente-rio.html
Pope Francis’ Homily at the Chrism Mass on March 28, 2013: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130328_messa-crismale.html
Pope Francis’ Letter to the Pontifical University of Argentina: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/letters/2015/documents/papa-francesco_20150303_lettera-universita-cattolica-argentina.html
Pope Francis’ Address to the U.S. Bishops on September 23, 2015: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2015/september/documents/papa-francesco_20150923_usa-vescovi.html