From a nation in “urgent need of hope” to Church attitudes that snuff out faith, Gozo Bishop Mario Grech has delivered a lengthy treatise on hope.
In a pastoral letter read out in Gozitan churches over the weekend, Mgr Grech also cautioned against offering “cheap hope” by legalising drugs for recreational use.
The lengthy reflection, titled ‘For Hope to Blossom’ was written on the occasion of the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and will also be delivered to every Gozitan household.
Mgr Grech reflected on what he described as a climate of suspicion in everything and everybody that has taken root. This undermines the institutions of democracy and the economy, he said.
But the bishop also directed his thoughts towards some in the Church who acted like “prophets of doom” in the face of changes to the pastoral approach towards certain Catholics.
The reference was to the new way of dealing with divorced and remarried Catholics proposed by the bishops earlier this year in line with Pope Francis’s exhortation Amoris Laetitia.
Prophets of doom, in their religious zeal, are more prone to focusing on the defect rather than the much good there is in man; they get stuck in considering the mistake rather than appreciating the efforts, small but sincere, that a person makes
“Unfortunately, there exist prophets of doom, who in their religious zeal, are more prone to focus on the defect rather than the much good there is in man; they get stuck in considering the mistake rather than appreciating the efforts, however small but sincere, that a person tries to make to rise up on his feet; they are more interested in defending the letter of the law than the person,” Mgr Grech said.
These people, he added, wanted to affirm God’s justice by controlling his mercy. “Attitudes of this type annihilate all hope in people and make the Church what it is not, and what it should never be.”
The bishop started his letter by extolling the virtues of those who are not discouraged by anything and have the capacity “to keep rowing against the current”. They most certainly provoke a smile on God’s face, he added.
But in what turned out to be a constant toing and froing between positivity and negativity throughout the pastoral letter, Mgr Grech also reflected on those whose life motor had stalled.
“Since hope is becoming a very rare virtue, there are those who see only darkness around them and think that all is lost,” he said.
This reflection was also transposed to the nation in a poignant reminder that despite increasing wealth and better social services, poverty was also on the rise.
“I am not referring only to material poverty, because we also have affective, intellectual, emotional poverty and the sidelining of values,” Mgr Grech said, adding the present was marked with personal, familial, economic and institutional crises. However, his message was also one of encouragement, grounded in the Christian belief that God is a constant companion in the journey of life.
“The ethics of fear sees only the crises, but the ethics of hope seeks the hidden possibilities in the crises,” he said.
Mgr Grech said Christian hope also needed a human and social dimension but he cautioned against offering “cheap hope” that disregarded dignity, such as legalising drugs for recreational use.
But in his sights Mgr Grech also had the prevalent dismissive attitude towards migrants.
“It is good for one to give hope to immigrants by providing work for them, but employment under bad conditions and underpayment are a new form of slavery,” the Bishop said.
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