“This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; ……. You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
‘What goes round comes round’, ‘History repeats itself.’
These sayings are so true. Any human organisation you like to pick, be it civic or religious, keeps repeating its mistakes over and over again down the ages. I myself and you, do we not do likewise?
Without going into the multitudinous examples to be found in human history, suffice it to say that our church is presently in the throes of the latest struggle between human tradition and the law of God. I and many of you were brought up in a church whose teaching was (to quote Jesus of Nazareth) ‘rules taught by men.’
Now, on the one hand we have Pope Francis urging us, by word and example, to live by the law of God – the law of love, of mercy, of compassion, of forgiveness, tolerance and justice. On the other hand we have those (among whom are numbered many in important church leadership positions) who fight tooth and nail to preserve and propagate “the traditions of the elders.’
The latest spat was the one over Pope Francis instruction that capital punishment can never be justified and those who claimed that this was contrary to church tradition and therefore heretical.
You and I can sometimes find this dispute confusing. While being strongly attracted by Pope Francis’ approach and seeing it’s merits we can find that the bonds of the past still tie us down.
I like to describe the present confusion of competing approaches as the battle between service of God in fear and trembling and service of God in love and gratitude.
We, the clergy of Ireland and the UK, both priests and bishops as well as some of the laity (with of course some exceptions) are on the side of the ‘elders’ or else just sitting on the fence to see how things go.
Changing ones outlook and attitude is always painful and takes time and a lot of help from the Holy Spirit.
I think we need to be openly proactive and creative, for growth requires change and movement.
I look on the above disputation as healthy and good for our church. An apparent unanimity resulting from forceful compliance is unhealthy.