At his mass of installation in Newark, N.J., on Jan 6, the feast of Epiphany, Cardinal Joseph Tobin shared a concern that occupies the minds of many bishops as well as parents.
He began his homily: “At a dinner party, recently, I was asked what is the greatest challenge the church faces today. I thought a moment and replied: the chasm between faith and life.”
He said the “hot-button” issues that dominate the conversation among many church people don’t worry him as much as “a growing trend that seems to isolate us, convincing us to neatly compartmentalize our life, subtly seducing us to go to mass on Sunday, and for the rest of the week, do whatever we think we need to do to get by.”
He added: “if we permit the chasm between faith and life to continue to expand, we risk losing Christ, reducing him simply to an interesting idea or a comforting, nostalgic memory. And, if we lose Christ, then the world has lost the salt, light and leaven that could have transformed it. If we lose Christ, how will anyone find eternal life that is not simply an empty wish that can be dismissed as ‘pie-in-the-sky,’ but the abundant, joyful life that God intends for us even now?”
His words reflect the constant message of Pope Francis, who reminds us that Christianity is not focused on an idea, a philosophy or a philanthropy. It is centred on a person — a person whose birth in Bethlehem the Christian community has just celebrated.
And how does the church continue the ministry of Jesus? Here is Tobin’s vision: “The church is the place where believers speak and listen to each other, and it is the community of faith that speaks with and listens to the world. The church senses a responsibility for the world, not simply as yet another institutional presence or a benevolent NGO, but as a movement of salt, light and leaven for the world’s transformation. For this reason, our kindness must be known to all.”
Tobin is being hailed as a bright light among the American hierarchy. He served in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis for four years prior to being appointed to Newark. And he was raised to the cardinalate this fall, before he took up his new post.
We look forward to him sharing more of his pastoral wisdom and vision.
The Prairie Messenger has carried a number of articles about the disastrous war on drugs carried out by newly elected Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Death squads, and even the police, are shooting suspected drug users, seemingly without any questions asked. To date, more than 6,000 people have been killed without a trial.
The Archdiocese of Manila is now stepping up to the plate. It will build a drug rehabilitation centre for drug dependents modelled on Brazil’s Fazenda da Esperanca, or Farm of Hope. This therapeutic community that started in 1983 is based on the principles of “spirituality, community life, and work.”
Rev. Anton Pascual, head of the social services ministry of the archdiocese, said the church will offer those who have succumbed to drugs “a new life, a home that will welcome them, regardless of their past.”
In 2014 I had the opportunity to visit the Farm of Hope in Brazil, where the Ursuline Sisters of Bruno worked. I saw the success it had in rehabilitating teens who had been hooked on drugs and lived a lawless life on the street.
This will indeed be a light that shines in the lawless darkness of the Philippines.