Benedict’s desire to dialogue and to engage the sincere questioning of a world caught up in unsatisfied desires for life and love, in frustrated attempts to seek and to know God, is frequently short-circuited by those who wish to twist the news and the words of the Pope and of others in order to advance their own malicious or alien agendas. Those of us in the Church owe it to ourselves and to Pope Benedict to simply read what he says, to allow him to speak for himself, and not to refer to what others say that he said. Many were caught up, regardless of good motives or not, in a fruitless effort to re-spin the media tidal wave in order to help alleviate the confusion for the good of fellow believers but who, in some cases, only added to the cacophonous din. Clarity and understanding were lacking where dialogue was not aided by a receptive and listening silence.
Pope Benedict is not turning aside or throwing over the Church’s teaching that exalts the love of man and woman in marriage when it is expressed by the complete gift of self and rejects the falsification of the sign of marital love through artificial contraception which prevents sincere self-giving. Father Fessio has aided all of us to better understand Pope Benedict’s words. He uses the example of thugs using pipes to beat and rob others. A thug who decides to use a cushion to soften the blow is still doing something that no one can approve of: he is using a pipe to beat and rob innocent people. It is the same with Pope Benedict’s words about a prostitute who uses artificial contraception: there can be no approval either for the action itself or the means used. The example was offered by the Pope only as a sign of hope that a human person can move in the direction of full freedom which is only found in the complete renunciation of sin and acceptance of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.
With the lighting of our Advent wreath we, also, hope to grow more fully into the freedom offered by Jesus Christ to live our lives in responsibility which is the authentic expression of love for God and for others. This responsibility must be based upon a dialogue with the Lord. In order to have a true conversation we must have the capacity to listen so that the other and his or her insights and love can be included in our own richer response for having included them in our lives.
We think of husband and wife in a particular way when we speak of dialogue, for their mutual self-giving must be fertile; that is they must include one another not only through the sharing of the marital act but also in the mutual inter-relationship of speaking and listening which makes for true dialogue and is thus a sincere expression of and an enriching of their marital love.
The same is true for all of us in our relationship with the Lord. When we listen with care and attention to the Word and the homily, when we participate in the singing of the Psalm we are taking part in a dialogue initiated by the One who loves us above all others and who, in His love, speaks saving Words. His words do not begin and end here, but they are given as Spirit and life, so that in grace they might grow as a flame which burns with the light of Christ Himself, the warming and life-giving power of God which is our Faith.
And we also listen in silence. In two places in our liturgy the gift of silence is used, not as an empty moment devoid of meaning unless it can be filled with something else. No, the silence too is a rich moment because filled with all the fullness of God Himself, proclaimed in His Word and received in His Eucharist. That is why these two periods of silence are placed after the homily and after the Communion of the Mass. Each of us is invited to enter the silence with our own prayer, our own needs to meet and know the Lord, to both listen to and respond to Him. These periods of silent contemplation are then collected and expressed in the common prayer of the Creed and general intercessions and the collect, or post-communion prayer.
“Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.”