Faith as Relationship

Commenting on the Synod of Bishops in Rome, John Allen writes:

Though it’s still early, we already have a candidate for the greatest sense of irony at the Synod of Bishops: Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila in the Philippines, who’s widely considered one of the rising stars among the Asian bishops.

As already noted, the early stages of a synod are formed largely by a tidal wave of speech-making. Yet Tagle had the temerity to float a truly novel idea, especially in that context, as one of the keys to successful evangelization: Silence.

“The church must discover the power of silence,” Tagle said.

“Confronted with the sorrows, doubts and uncertainties of people she cannot pretend to give easy solutions,” he said. “In Jesus, silence becomes the way of attentive listening, compassion and prayer. It is the way to truth.”

Tagle suggested that silence would be one signal of a new spirit of humility.

“The church’s humility, respectfulness and silence might reveal more clearly the face of God in Jesus,” he told the synod.

A synod of bishops, needless to say, is not exacted designed to promote a culture of silence. To make the irony even juicier, Tagle has been nominated vice-president of the “Commission for the Message,” which will produce a statement to the world to be issued at the conclusion of the synod.

It will be fascinating to see if a spirit of “less is more,” in keeping with Tagle’s appeal for silence, gains any traction.

The Holy Spirit is hard at work in Rome. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, addressed the synod and told them that shared, ecumenical contemplation is the foundation for evangelization. Contemplation is grounded in silence.

I mourn on this the 50th anniversary of Vatican II. I think of what could have been if the hierarchs had understood Gospel freedom. John Paul II and Benedict XVI have rolled back the reforms of John XXIII and the bishops assembled in Council because a patriarchal church has to be in control of everything, including our lived experience of the Divine. This week, Hans Kung challenged to people of God to rise up and revolt against hierarchy and patriarchal domination.

Benedict XVI has designated this as The Year of Faith. The Creighton University website tells us that faith is being defined in terms of relationships as opposed as doctrine or dogma to be believe. The Trinity is first and foremost about relationship. Our faith is a lived relationship with the Living God. It is an ongoing journey. We are enrolled in a course at church on Living the Questions 2. The course emphasizes these aspects of faith. What does the hierarchy not understand about Paul Tillich’s concept of faith as doubt?

Yet, there may be hope for church in the broadest sense—relationship, silence, contemplation, listening and humility. How unique! This is the language of the Risen Christ.


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