Vatican City, 6 October 2015 (VIS) – This morning at 9 a.m., with the recitation of the Terce prayer, the third Congregation of the General Ordinary Assembly on the Family opened in the Synod Hall.
His Beatitude Cardinal George Alencherry, major archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly of the Syro-Malabars, India, and president of the Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church, pronounced a homily in which he underlined, in the light of the Bible readings, the prophetic mission of the Church in our times.
“The reading from Jeremiah gives us a message very much applicable to the goal of our Synodal deliberations on family”, he began. “Prophet Jeremiah uttered a few oracles to the royal family of Judah cautioning the King against the ruin that may fall upon the Kingdom, if the King does not render Justice and righteousness and save the oppressed from the hand of the oppressor. Josiah and Jehoiakim were the kings of Judah, at that time. We know that both of them were weak kings, and Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, destroyed the Kingdom of Judah and the temple. Owing to the failures of the kings the people were driven to exile and all the sufferings that arose from it. Josiah and Nebuchadnezzar, the kings of Judah, could not render justice and righteousness and save the oppressed from the hand of the oppressor. Justice means the acceptance of the reign of God and righteousness is the grace of God resulting from the acceptance of God’s reign. The kings of Judah failed in their responsibility to give justice and righteousness to the people, and accordingly the people had to suffer the consequences”.
“The words of the prophet are applicable to rulers and leaders of all the times and also to the people governed by them. In many countries of the world people are denied justice and righteousness as a result of the promotion of individualism, hedonism and oppression by secularist values and lines of action. The question arises as to whether the leaders of the Church have come forward with a prophetic role like that of Jeremiah to support the people with the Word of God and by personal witness”.
“Jeremiah had to suffer the cost of his prophetic role”, the Cardinal observed. “His life was a symbol of the message he gave. Suffering and ruin he had to take upon himself. He was asked to accept three signs in his life: not to marry, not to attend funerals and not to attend parties”.
“’Do not take a wife’: Jeremiah is not to experience the deep love of a bride, for the bride, Israel, has rejected Yahweh’s love. He must experience loneliness, as Yahweh experiences loneliness. In Christian times, celibacy becomes a sign”.
“’Do not go into a house where there is mourning’: Jeremiah is not to mourn or show compassion to the dead, because Yahweh has lost all feelings for his people. They will die unlamented”.
“’Do not go into a house where there is a celebration’: Jeremiah is not to join any celebration, because there is nothing to celebrate. Jeremiah is called to lead a terrible life, and no wonder he goes into deep depression and bitter lament. It is not easy to be a prophet”.
“The pastors of the Church in the present times are called to take upon their lives a prophetic role of suffering and kenosis, similar to that of the prophet Jeremiah”, concluded His Beatitude, citing Pope Francis’ words in his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium”:
“I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: ‘Give them something to eat’”.