What does the phrase “live your faith” mean to you? To a lot of people, this phrase means each one of us should strive to be as perfect as you can be. After all, in the gospel of Matthew, Christ told us: “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
But live your faith means so much more than just having all the items on your Catholic checklist marked off. You may faithfully attend mass, go to confession at least once a month, fast from meat on Fridays, etc., but evangelization is also a major part of living your faith.
The word evangelization can make some people feel uncomfortable because it implies stepping out of their comfort zone and talking to other people about their faith. But it also means evangelizing through works, not just words. That’s why we have the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and why at the end of the world, God will separate the sheep from the goats based on how they cared for those who were hungry, sick, naked and lonely (Matthew 25: 31-46).
So we must care for each other, as well as talk to each other. We need to be attentive to other’s needs and though there are many groups of people who need care, Pope Francis identified Catholics who are divorced and remarried as one of the communities he wants us to focus on.
Divorced and remarried Catholics have in large part walked away from the Catholic Church—but the Pope is calling for them to be integrated back into parish life.
This might seem surprising to some people who mistakenly believe that all divorced Catholics, whether remarried or not, are not welcome in the parish, but Pope Francis reminds us that just the opposite is true. Alejandro Bermudez, Executive Director of the Catholic News Agency quotes the Pope on this very issue:
So, what he means by encouraging divorced Catholics in a new union to ‘participate in the parish’ is exactly what John Paul II said in Familiaris consortio, that Catholics in this situation are not formally excommunicated.
“Catholic doctrine reminds its divorced members who have remarried that they are not excommunicated—even though they live in a situation on the margin of what indissolubility of marriage and the sacrament of marriage require of them—and they are asked to integrate into the parish life,” he says in his newly translated book On Heaven and Earth.
But this also means that divorced and remarried Catholics must work toward this just as much as it means active Catholics must hold out a welcoming hand.
They need to overcome their feeling of brandishing the Scarlet “D,” that terrible feeling that people who don’t even know them can tell they are divorced. They must put aside their defensiveness and pride with the understanding that they are still loved and an important part of the Body of Christ.
There are also many divorced and remarried Catholics who have not given up on the Catholic Church altogether, but they attend mass and parish events lurking in the shadows because they do feel excommunicated by parishioners who know of their situation.
It’s important these men and women understand there is a path to rectifying their situation. As long as they are alive and willing, there is way to resolve the problems blocking their way to receiving the sacraments once again, but if we don’t tell them, they will continue to remain in the shadows and cut off from sacramental grace.
Bermudez explained that such individuals are “just in a condition that does not allow them to approach to receive Holy Communion … but the way to move towards a remedy to that situation is by participating in the charitable life of parishes.”
In this way, Bermudez explained, Pope Francis’ nuanced position on divorce is one that is always informed both by Catholic doctrine and by charity. Food for thought for all of us.
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