Reflection for Sunday – December 10, 2023
Readings: Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-11; 2 Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1: 1-8
Preacher: Brigit Hurley
We’ve become accustomed to celebrating Advent by preparing our hearts for the arrival of Jesus, Savior of the world, in the form of a poor, helpless infant. For people unfamiliar with the nativity story, it must seem wildly imaginative that the Divine would enter the world in that way. Yet God comes to us in equally unlikely ways even today. Since I completed the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, I look for movements of the Holy Spirit every day and I’m never disappointed.
I recognized the Holy Spirit recently in words spoken by Pope Francis at the Synod. He spoke of the essential role of women in transmitting the faith, and he sees the need for the Church to “adopt a more decisive commitment to understand and accompany women from a pastoral and sacramental point of view.” While I find it frustrating that he isn’t calling for bold changes such as the ordination of women, could his words represent the movement of the Spirit, preparing the way of the Lord and making the path straight for a transformation in Church leadership? As the People of God rise to God’s challenge to respect the equal dignity of all people and bear responsibility for the common good, we cannot help but acknowledge that the spiritual gifts of women are missing from our pulpits and policies.
I had the privilege of working alongside Marv Mich for ten years at Catholic Family Center’s Office of Social Policy. Marv was a scholar and a practitioner of Catholic social teaching. He once explained to me that in addition to Scripture, tradition and reason, the wisdom and experience of the people of God inform our social teaching. In some cases, the voices and actions of the faithful are so holy and so clearly address the desperate needs of the common good that they affect Church teaching.
There are examples throughout history of grassroots movements of Catholics who reshaped Church teaching. The millions of Catholics around the world demanding an end to the all-male celibate priesthood are one such movement in the making.
Pope Francis told members of the Synod to “trust the fidelity of the people” who participated in listening sessions held prior to the Synod, and said, “… when you want to know ‘how’ the Church believes, go to the faithful people.” He said, “One of the characteristics of this faithful people is its infallibility —yes, it is infallible in ‘credendo’, in belief, as the Second Vatican Council taught us.” Pope Francis described lay Catholics “patiently and humbly enduring the scorn, mistreatment, and marginalization of institutionalized clericalism,” despite the “chauvinistic and dictatorial attitudes” they encounter.
He spoke of faith transmitted in a feminine dialect. “It is women who know how to hope, know how to discover the resources of the church and of the faithful people who take risks beyond the limit, perhaps with fear but courageously.”
This Advent, we can pray for a courage like John the Baptist’s, to prepare for the new Church being formed through the power of the Holy Spirit. The transformation will be full of challenges. But it is inevitable, for the faithful have spoken and the change has already taken place in their hearts and minds.