This week Pope Francis released his encyclical, Fratelli tutti: on fraternity and social friendship. Archbishop Comensoli has encouraged us all to read it. To help with this, there are a number of resources available here. If anyone wants to setup a reading group or be involved in one, please do not hesitate to contact the parish office and we can put people in contact with each other.
What struck me from the encyclical is a topic close to my own heart: the encounter with God that is openness to another person. Pope Francis writes of a “culture of encounter”. It is interesting to see this in the light of this Sunday’s readings, which give us some of the most familiar images of the transcendent.
We have the image of the Holy Mountain. Not only are mountains, in many religions, often considered places where one can meet the divine, but they can also stand for the religious significance of nature itself (something which the Romantics tried to recover). However, the Holy Mountain is where the Temple is, which Temple in the end is the Body of Christ. It points to the person.
We also find the image of the feast. It is not hard to imagine the communal banquet as something transcendent, as an insight into true life. Such events of community and joy (and indeed just food) are some of our most important moments, and so give us much to ponder. This is even more the case in lock-down; and when so many people in our world struggle to eat, struggle to belong and really struggle to be joyful. Again, this banquet in the end is the Eucharist, pointing to the person.
Finally, we have the image of marriage, one of the deepest encounters with another person, sacramental in its total gift and in its openness to life. Again, this marriage in the end is that of Christ and his Church, pointing to the person.
This openness, though, is what Pope Francis seems to emphasise in his discussion of the Good Samaritan. The concrete call that each person makes on us is an invitation to life, and to growth in life. Pope Francis explains how real relationships avoid the twin pitfalls of exclusion and abstraction. The pitfall of exclusion is to focus on my neighbour without realising the mystery of our common humanity, how it branches out. The pitfall of abstraction is trying to help humanity while avoiding concrete persons, the supposedly difficult and tedious.
This is that deepest meaning of sacramentality. We are drawn out of ourselves through truly giving ourselves. It is in real events, in time and space, through true relationships and obligations, that the Kingdom of God is born.