What makes Pope Francis tick: read his Pastoral Letter for the Year of Faith
Pastoral Letter from Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Octubre de 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
Among the most striking experiences of the last decades is finding doors closed. Little by little increasing insecurity has made us bolt doors, employ means of vigilance, install security cameras and mistrust strangers who call at our door.
None the less in some places there are doors that are still open. The closed door is really a symbol of our today. It is something more than a simple sociological fact; it is an existential reality that is imposing itself as a way of life, a way of confronting reality, others and the future.
The bolted door of my house, the place of my intimate life, my dreams, hopes, sufferings and moments of happiness, is locked against others. And it is not simply a matter of the physical house; it is also the whole area of my life, of my heart. All the time there are fewer who can cross that threshold. The security of reinforced doors protects the insecurity of a life which is becoming more fragile and less open to the riches of the life and the love of others.
The image of an open door has always been a symbol of light, friendship, happiness, liberty and trust. How we need to recover them. The closed door does us harm, reduces and separates us.
We begin the Year of Faith and, paradoxically, the image that the Pope proposes is that of a door, a door through which we must pass to be able to find what we need so much.
The Church, through the voice and heart of its Pastor, Benedict XVI, invites us to cross the threshold, to take an interior and free step: to animate ourselves to enter a new life.
The phrase “door to faith” brings us back to the Acts of the Apostles: “On arriving, they gathered the Church together and told them what God had done through them and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts. 14.27).
God always takes the initiative and He does not want anyone to be excluded. God calls at the door of our hearts: Look, I am at the door, calling: if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I shall enter his house and dine with him and him with me (Rev.3.20).
Faith is a grace, a gift of God.
“Only by believing does faith grow and be strengthened: in a continual abandon into the hands of a love which is always felt as greater because it has its origin in God”
Crossing through that door presupposes the beginning of a way or journey that lasts a lifetime, as we pass in front of so many doors which open to us today, many of them false doors, doors that invite us in a very attractive but lying manner to go down that road, promising an empty narcissistic happiness which has an expiry dated: doors that lead to cross-roads where, no matter which option we follow, will, sooner or later, cause suffering and confusion, doors focused on self which wear out and have no guarantee for the future.
While the doors of the houses are closed, the doors of the shopping malls are always open. One passes through the door of faith, one crosses that threshold, when the Word of God is announced and the heart allows itself to be shaped by that grace which transforms. A grace which has a concrete name, and that name is Jesus. Jesus is the door. (Jn. 10:9). He, and only He, is and will always be the door. No one goes to the Father except through Him. (Jn.14.6). If there is no Christ, there is no way to God. As the door, He opens the way to God and as Good Shepherd he is the Only One who looks after us at the price of his own life.
Jesus is the door and he knocks on our door so that we allow him to cross the threshold of our lives. “Don’t be afraid … open the doors wide for Christ”, Blessed John Paul II told us at the beginning of his papacy. To open the doors of our hearts as the disciples of Emaus did, asking him to stay with us so that we may pass through the doors of faith and that the Lord himself bring us to understand the reasons why we believe, so that we may then go out to announce it. Faith presumes that we decide to be with the Lord, to live with him and share this with our brothers and sisters.
We give thanks to God for this opportunity to realise the value of our lives as children of God through this journey of faith which began in our lives with the waters of baptism, that unending and fruitful dew which makes us children of God and brothers and sisters in the Church.
The purpose, the objective (of this year of Faith) is that we meet with God with whom we have already entered into communion and who wishes to restore us, purify us, raise us up and sanctify us, and give us the happiness that our hearts crave.
To begin this year of Faith is a call to us to deepen in our lives that faith we have already received. To profess our faith with our mouth implies living it in our hearts and showing it in what we do: it is a testimony and public commitment. The disciple of Christ, a child of the Church, can never think that believing is a private matter. It is an important and strong challenge for every day, convinced that he who began the good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ. (Fil. !:6).Looking at our reality, as disciples who are missionaries, we ask ourselves what challenge this crossing the threshold of the faith has for us?
Crossing the Threshold of Faith
Crossing this threshold of the faith challenges us to discover that, even though it would seem that death reigns in its various forms and that our history is governed by the law of the strongest or the most astute and that hate and ambition are the driving forces of so many human struggles, we are also absolutely convinced that this sad reality can and should change decisively, because ‘if God is with us, who can overcome us?’ (Rom. 8: 31, 37).
Crossing this threshold of the faith supposes that we’ll not be ashamed to have the heart of a child who, because he still believes in impossible things, can still live in hope, which is the only thing capable of giving sense to and transforming history. It means asking unceasingly, praying without weakening and adoring so that our vision may be transfigured.
Crossing the threshold of the faith brings us to beg for everyone “the same sentiments that Christ had” (Phil. 2-5), so that each discover a new way of thinking, of communicating with one another, of looking at others, of respecting one another, of being in family together, of planning our futures, of living out love and our vocation.
Crossing the threshold of the faith is to be active, trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit present in the Church and who is also seen in the signs of the times. It is to join in the constant movement of life and of history without falling into the paralyzing defeatism that everything in the past was better. It is an urgency to think in new ways, to offer new suggestions, a new creativity, kneading life with “the new leaven of justice and holiness” (1 Cor. 5:8).
Crossing the threshold of the faith implies that we have eyes to wonder and a heart that is not lazily accustomed, that is able to recognize that every time a woman gives birth it is another bet placed for life and the future; that, when we watch out for the innocence of children we are guaranteeing the truth of a tomorrow and when we treat gently the dedicated life of an elderly person we are acting justly and caressing our own roots.
Crossing the threshold of the faith means work lived with dignity and with a vocation to serve with the self-denial of one who comes back time and time again to begin without weakening, as if everything done so far were only one step in the journey towards the Kingdom, the fullness of life.
It is the quiet wait after the daily planting: it is the contemplation of the collected harvest, giving thanks to the Lord because he is good, asking that he not abandon the work of his hands (Psalm 137).
Crossing the threshold of the faith demands that we struggle for liberty and life together with others even when the ambient drags its feet, in the certainty that the Lord asks of us to live justly, love goodness and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).
Crossing the threshold of the faith bears deeply within it the continued conversion of our attitudes, modes and tones with which we live. It demands a reformulation, not a patching up or a varnishing. It means accepting the new form that Jesus Christ prints on him who is touched by His hand and his Gospel of life.
It means doing something totally new for society and the Church; because “He who is in Christ is a new creature” (2 Cor 5, 17-21)
Crossing the threshold of the faith leads us to forgiving and to know how to break into a smile. It means approaching every person who lives on the edge of existence and to call him by name. It is taking care of the fragility of the weakest and supports his trembling knees in the certainty that in what we do for the smallest of our brothers it is to Jesus himself that we are doing it (Mt. 25. 40).
Crossing the threshold of the Faith demands that we celebrate life. That we let ourselves be transformed because we have been made one with Jesus at the table of the Eucharist celebrated in community and from there our hands and heart be busy working in the great project of the Kingdom: all the rest will be given us in addition (Mt. 6.33).
Crossing the threshold of the faith means living in the spirit of the Vatican Council and of Aparecida (the latest meeting of the Latin American and Caribbean bishops), a Church of open doors, not just to receive in but fundamentally to go out and fill the street and the people of our times with the Good News.
Crossing the threshold of the faith, in our Archdiocesan Church, presupposes that we be convinced of the Mission to be a church that lives, prays and works with a missionary orientation.
Crossing the threshold of the faith is, definitively, the acceptance of the newness of the life of the Risen Christ, raised in our poor flesh to make it a sign of the new life.
Meditating all these things, we look at Mary. May she, the Virgin Mother, accompany us in our crossing the threshold of the faith and bring the Holy Spirit over our Church, as in Nazareth, so that just like her we may adore the Lord and go out to announce the marvels he has done in us.
Cardenal Jorge Bergoglio Buenos Aires, Octubre de 2012
(Translated by Paul O’Connor OSA Ecuador, who sent it to Seamus Aherne OSA Dublin.)