The Pastor Speaks …..
The journey (s) of the Holy Family and Church journeying together…!
The New Year just about to commence tells us of the progress of time and tells us human beings that the journey is crossing one more mile stone. And the journey continues till the point of departure occasioned by the inevitable death to come. Meanwhile the journey of life has to continue not just mechanically drifting along the current, but with deliberate and personal involvement guided by a vision and a goal to reach. For us Christian believers it is God and His Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ who direct and guide us. How do we listen and how we understand this God who keeps revealing Himself and His plan for our life? In the Christmas season it is the members of the holy Family, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph who are in the focus. I want to reflect along with you on the "journey" of Mary and Joseph and the Child Jesus. We should also see the meaning of the journey of the Church and the theme of the Synod - 2021-2023: Journeying together in Communion, Participation, and Mission.
Most Rev. Dr. Prakash Mallavarapu D.D
The journey with a given call and mission: The journeys of the Holy Family are journeys of faith. In the course of their journey they were guided and directed by the Word coming from God. During the one long journey there were several journeys for a specific purpose, and to a specific place and at specific time. The first journey mentioned is that of our Blessed Mother who went "in haste to the hill country" to visit her relative, Elizabeth. It was a journey "in order to be there for Elizabeth" who in her old age conceived and was six months pregnant. The journey and the visit with Elizabeth was an act of faith and an act of charity. It is an act of faith in the first place as it was a response to God's plan, believing and obeying Him. Our Blessed Mother undertakes this journey responding to the needy situation of Elizabeth and Zachariah which was also revealed by God through the Angel Gabriel. The Holy Spirit overshadowing our Blessed Mother led her to take up this journey and the same Holy Spirit inspires Elizabeth to recognize in faith the truth. She was joyful in encountering the "Mother of God": "Why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me" (Lk 1: 43). We can also see how this visit to Elizabeth was also to make known to others that the time of the fulfillment of the promise of the Messiah has come! The household of Zachariah and Elizabeth, their neighbors and kinsfolk present on the occasion of the circumcision of the John the Baptist are also told of God's plan for the redemption of Israel. The presence of Our Blessed Mother carrying in her womb the "Son of God" and the birth of John the Baptist as the precursor were events of God's revelation: "And you child, will be called the prophet of the Most High and will go before the Lord to prepare his way". "And you child will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways" (Lk 1:76).
Journey to Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus Christ: This is the second journey mentioned in the infancy narratives is about Mary and Joseph going to Bethlehem to register their names in obedience to the decree of Caesar Augustus, the emperor. There is also the faith and obedience of Joseph, Mary's chaste spouse. He listened to God's revelation through the angel and he accepted Mary betrothed to him, understanding very well the "child to be born of Mary is child conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. By accepting God's plan, he gives the child born of Mary, legitimacy to be born in the house of David to which he belonged. From then on, Mary and Joseph journeyed together! Their journey to Bethlehem led to the birth of Jesus in a manger at Bethlehem: "the Son of the Most High" and "Son of God!" Revelation about the child born of Mary is given to the shepherds, to the wise men from the East, and even to Herod. Shepherds and the wise men from the East come and visit - again a journey with a purpose! They came, they saw, they paid homage, and they went back rejoicing. Bethlehem is blessed and the people are blessed with the joy of seeing "the king who is born of Mary." Mary and Joseph have to understand by listening to what God is saying through the shepherds and the magi. It is said, we know, "Mary kept all this in her heart and pondered."
The journey to Egypt and the journey from Egypt to Nazareth: The journey (flight) to Egypt and from Egypt to Nazareth was urgent to escape from the homicide planned by Herod to destroy the "new born King." Within a short span of time the Holy family is again on a journey, certainly a difficult one but under the direction of God was a necessary journey. All the while, we should see, there is the unfolding of the consequences of the "Word becoming flesh," "God becoming human being". "Not everyone and not everything is welcoming and favorable towards the "Newborn King." Interwoven in the infancy narrative is the journey of the Holy Family to Jerusalem for the "rites of purification" and the prophetic words of Simeon, "revelation" of the truth regarding the child born of Mary: "A light for revelaton to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel" (Lk 2: 32). Again here through Simeon and Anna, the birth of Messiah is proclaimed to more people. The culmination of the infancy narratives is the journey of the Holy Family to Jerusalem for the Passover feast and Jesus is proclaimed to the learned Jews, the "Messaiah" For Joseph and Mary it was a "double journey." They are told something more of this child of twelve years, "busy with His Father's Work."
Like our Blessed Mother and Joseph we have to see how God keeps disclosing His will and His plan, instructing and directing, guiding and protecting those who are called and entrusted with a mission Concern for the living Church on its onward journey is one of the main reasons in calling for the Synod - 2021-2023. Holy Father, Pope Francis and his initiatives during his pontificate have been regarding the day to day life in the Church. As the head of the Catholic Church, the Holy Father is concerned with the wellbeing of all the sections of the Church: bishops, priests, religious, and the lay faithful: administration of the temporal goods of the Church, he speaks of the discipline of the clergy and religious, families, youth, the people on the peripheries, connecting always to the mission of the Church regarding all these concerns. Our pope also makes use of every occasion possible to speak on issues which are not religious in nature our planet earth, climate changes, economic policies of the nations, issues related to migration and migrants, poverty, etc, always appealing to the leaders of nations to address these matters with humane and humanitarian outlook! Even in these matters, the Holy Father speaks as a Christian leader and assures the world nations that the Church will always do her part as part of the God-given mission entrusted to the Church. It is in this larger scenario we have to see how the Holy Father is inviting the Church to look at her internal life and at her missionary endeavors. If the Church has to be a living, effective and relevant presence as the "Universal Sacrament of Salvation" in the world, a periodical review and re-orienting is necessary. How is the church seen by the faithful inside the Church and how do the people outside the Christian fold see and experience the Church? Internally, the policies, activities, relationships among different sections of people in the Church have to be in certain order but, are they like that? And this exercise has to be guided by a vision that is also periodically reviewed and evaluated. Synod 2021-2023 is an opportunity for this exercise, to speak, to listen, and to act! "The history of the Church bears ample witness to the importance of consultation for ascertaining the views of the Bishops and the faithful in matters pertaining to the good of the Church. Hence, even in the preparation of the Synodal Assemblies, it is very important that consultation of all the particular Churches be given special attention."(Episcopalis Communio, Apstolic Constitution, no.7)
Synod 2021-2023 as a concern for the Church:Communion, Participation, and Mission, is being proposed as the vision of the Synod - 2021-2023! The response to this invitation has to be, both individual and communitarian. Listening to what the Spirit is saying to the church about her life and mission. Church should try to look towards the future. Participation in the Synodal process is the way to express our concern for the Church. This call of the Synod and the Synodal process are also to help the Church to truthfully and critically look at the situation in the Church. The crucial point here is to see whether or not the local Church in the given country or continent, ecclesiastical region, and dioceses is truly a community of believers, journeying together. The life in the church should be what "God wants it to be and the way God wants it to be engaged in doing what He wants. It is true that not everything is hopeless and bad in the present Church! But, it would not be also true to think or say that "nothing is wrong!" Church is on her journey in history and so it is appropriate to know how this journey is going on, Church is holy and sinful! May Mother Mary, the Mother of the Church, whose Divine Motherhood we celebrate on the first day of the New Year, 2022, accompany the Church on her journey, listening and responding to what the Spirit is saying to the Churches!"
"To the Angel of the Church in Ephesus write: The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. " 'I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear evil men but have tested those who call themselves apostles but are not, and found them to be false: I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you,that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." (Rev. 2: 1-7).
† Prakash Mallavarapu, Archbishop of Visakhapatnam