Depending on which calendar you look at, today may be the commemoration day for Pope John XXIII. I say perhaps because one RC calendar tells me it is today and another tells me that it is October 11. An Anglican calendar instructs me that it is tomorrow June 4th. Either way I am going to go with the RC day of June 3rd on the eve of the Anglican day June 4th.
Pope John XXIII was a reformer in the Roman Church. His second Vatican Council, which he did not see to completion, reformed the church forever. Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli became pope in 1958 but died of stomach cancer on June 3, 1963, two years before Vatican II was complete. John XXIII was a reformer and as such brought Roman Catholicism to a place of new understanding of other churches and I would argue by virtue of that epiphany, a better understanding of itself. When he opened the second Vatican Council he said, “The Church has always opposed… errors. Nowadays, however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity.” This, I think reflects a little of who the man was. He has been remembered as warm and caring. So important were his reforms that the Lutheran Church and the Anglican Church have commemoration dates for this Pope.
Roncalli kept a journal of his thoughts from a young age into his papacy. One of the things that he wrote in there is for me a great testimony of how we ought to live our day to day journeys. “Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” With these words John 23rd painted a vision of who we might be if we applied ourselves. We have all too often as church, as nation, as individual allowed our fears to guide our decisions, guide our actions and guide our institutions. Who might we be if we looked to our untapped potential? What might the church look like of we looked to our biggest hopes and our biggest dreams? It saddens me to know end when I am reminded of church communities in which every decision seems to be based on the possible pitfalls rather than on what might be for the people of God if risk is assumed and strides forward are made. I get frustrated myself, when ordained leadership beats down the dreams, hopes and aspirations of the people of God, the baptised, for fear of loss of control or a perceived lack of respectability. There is no worse comment in an assembly of decision makers than, “we tried that before and it did not work.”
On whatever day you choose to commemorate John 23rd, it is fair to say that his legacy of one that speaks to what can happen when a person consults his/her dreams and aspirations. For certain, without Roncalli, my wife (a Roman Catholic) and I could never be. His reforms were the beginning of new understandings of who the people of God are. I urge all people of God to hold firm in the hope that we can celebrate the idea that we are all children of the one loving God. Sadly, today there are voices in holy hallways of power that are responding to fear and not to love, or hope, or dreams. In a day in age when we seek to bid together we hold firm in the example of John 23rd when we here statements from Rome suggesting that some ‘ecclesial communities’ are not true churches. We as ‘Christians’ must not feed into this instructional fear, but respond as a people of God in love to each other, in the hope that God has set before us – that hope is LOVE
FROM THE MESSAGE –
1 John: 4: 7-12, 17-19
My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.
My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!
God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.
We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.
“There is no room in love for fear” – it worked for Angelo Roncalli and I am sure that it can work for us today.