HOMILY – 17TH SUNDAY [A] 2017 – CARING SUNDAY – AMORIS LAETITIA
The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church. This sentence opens Amoris Laetitia, and echoes the opening sentence of Gaudium et Spes of the Second Vatican Council telling us that the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the (people) of this age, especially those who are poor of in any way afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.
I find this a powerful expression of Pope Francis’ emphasis on reaching back to that Council and drawing its teachings more firmly into our consciousness. His post-synodal exhortation on The Joy of Love is one of the most caring documents to emerge from the Vatican. It is sensitive to the struggles that confront couples and families in today’s world, avoids words implications of judgement and condemnation, and is rich with comfort and consolation to the troubled and wounded in today’s frantic world. For one commentator, Amoris Laetitia “speaks of inclusion and affirms the Gospel as a word spoken to all people in every circumstance as a source of hope.” [Daniel Ang – Diocese of Broken Bay]
Today is “Caring Sunday”, asking each of us to give attention to the aspect of care in our individual lives. Who cares for you? Who or what do you care for? What does being a “care-giver” really mean – is it the same as being a “care-taker”? “Pastoral care” is another term we hear quite often these days, along with “care of the environment”. What do they mean and where do these fit in your view of life?
In my understanding, the word “care” relates to gentleness, being considerate and the sharing of yourself. Someone who cares is someone who takes an interest, goes out of their way and gets into your way – not as a nuisance, but to support, to do for you what you cannot do for yourself.
Pope Francis identifies “care” with a beautiful but challenging image. He writes of the power of tenderness. [AL308] He reminds us of the shepherd who, when he finds the lost sheep, does not beat it or treat it roughly, but lifts it on his shoulders and carries it back to the flock. Tenderness enables mercy to flourish and, as a foundation of the Church’s life, ensures that the Church makes a place for everyone, with all their problems. [AL 309-310]
This Sunday’s parables are about discovering, or uncovering, hidden riches: treasure buried in a field; a rare and valuable pearl. Jesus uses them as images of the kingdom or reign of God, but they apply also to insights that come to us as life unfolds. Solomon found he was blessed with the gift of wisdom and this quality became the hallmark of his leadership. [1st Reading] The true significance of “caring” can likewise be something you “discover” or stumble across – like a carpenter friend of mine who had a poor view of those he called “do-gooders” until he was contracted to work at a hospice. The care he observed there changed not only his opinion but himself as a person. I found a treasure I didn’t know existed!” He now volunteers his gift of carpentry in his free time.
As you may know the parish published a family prayer book centred on Pope Francis’ writing on the Joy of Love. The prayers of young and not so young contributors have produced a book that puts “Caring” at the top of the agenda in family life. In caring, we celebrate, love, forgive, enjoy and praise God in all phases of living. It was a privilege to gather these prayers and experience their beauty. If you haven’t a copy of There’s a time for… it’s readily available! Responses from those who are using it tell me it is a “treasure” waiting to be discovered.
“The family…where we first learn to relate to others, to listen and share, to be patient and show respect, to help one another and live as one.” [AL 276]