MORNING MEDITATION IN THE CHAPEL OF THE
That adolescent progressivism
Wednesday, 12 June 2013
(by L'Osservatore Romano, Weekly ed. in English, n.
25, 19 June 2013)
There are two temptations
to face at this moment in
the Church’s history:
drawing back, because we are
afraid of the freedom that
comes from the law “enacted
in the Holy Spirit”; and
giving in to an “adolescent
progressivism”, namely, the
inclination to follow the
most captivating values
presented by prevailing
culture. Pope Francis spoke
of these temptations on
Wednesday morning, 12 June,
commenting on the Readings —
from Cor 3:4-11 and Mt
5:17-19 — at Mass in the
Chapel of the Domus Sanctae
Marthae. concelebrating with
the Pope among others were
Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de
Castro, Major Penitentary,
and Joćo Braz de Aviz,
Prefect of the Congregation
for Institutes of
Consecrated Life and
Societies of Apostolic Life,
who was with dicastery
The Pope began by reflecting on the explanations Jesus gave to those who
accused him of wishing to change the Mosaic Laws. He reassured them, saying “I
have come not to abolish but to fulfil”. For the law, the Holy Father specified,
“is a fruit of the Covenant. It is impossible to understand the law without the
Covenant. The law is more or less the way to enter the Covenant”, which began
with a promise on that afternoon in the earthly paradise, then continued with
Noah’s Ark, with Moses in the desert and then progressed as the law of Israel in
order to do God’s will”.
This law “is sacred”, he added, “because it brought the people to God”.
Therefore “it cannot be touched”. Some said that Jesus “was changing this law”.
Instead he was seeking to explain clearly that there was a path that would lead
“to the growth”, to “the full maturity of the law”. The Pope then reaffirmed the
role of the Holy Spirit in passing on this law. “The law that sets us free is
the law of the Spirit”.
However, it is a freedom which in a certain sense is frightening. “Because”,
Pope Francis explained, “it can be confused with some other forms of human
freedom”. Then “the law of the Spirit leads us to the road of continuous
discernment in order to do God’s will”. This too is somewhat frightening to us”.
However the Pope said, when we are assailed by this fear we risk succumbing to
two temptations. The first is “to turn back because we are uncertain. But this
interrupts the journey”. It is “the temptation of the fear of freedom, of fear
of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit frightens us”.
At this point Pope Francis recalled an episode that dates back to the 1930s.
“A diligent superior of a religious congregation was spending many years
collecting all the rules of his congregation: what the religious were and were
not permitted to do. Then, once he had finished his task, he went to an
important Benedictine Abbot who was in Rome, to show him his work. The Abbot
looked at it and said: Father, with this you have killed the charism of your
congregation! He had killed freedom. For the charism gives fruits of freedom and
he had blocked the charism. This is not life. The congregation was unable to go
on living. What happened? Twenty-five years after that masterpiece, no one
looked at it and it ended on a library shelf”.
The second temptation is what the Pope called “adolescent progressivism”. But
it is not real progress: it is a culture that moves ahead but from which we are
unable to detach ourselves and from which we take the laws and values we like
best, just as teenagers do. In the end we run the risk of slipping, “just as a
car skids on an icy road and ends up in a ditch”.
According to the Pope, this is a recurrent temptation for the Church in our
day. “We cannot turn back”, he said, “and skid off the road”. The road to follow
is this: “The law is full, always in continuity, there are no short cuts: just
as the seed culminates in the flower, in the fruit. The road is that of freedom
in the Holy Spirit who sets us free in continuous discernment of God’s will, to
make progress on this road without turning back”, or skidding. And Pope Francis
ended: “let us ask the Holy Spirit to give us life, to lead us onwards, to bring
the law to full maturity, that law which sets us free”.