Thursday, June 26, 2014

Working document for Pope Francis' Synod on Family: The Bible is the heart of transforming family life

The Instrumentum Laboris (i.e., the working document) for the upcoming Synod on the Family called by Pope Francis has finally been released (html, pdf). The document highlights challenges facing the family today and offers thoughts toward advancing pastoral solutions. I encourage people to read it themselves.

Much can and will be said about this document. Here I just want to register my gratitude for one aspect of it in particular: the pride of place given throughout this document to Scripture.

Indeed, it begins with a discussion of the biblical teaching on the family (no. 1-3). After also calling for a greater familiarity with the teaching of the Church (nos. 4-7), it then launches into a discussion of what is needed to address the pastoral challenges facing the Church. First and foremost, the document calls for careful instruction about the teaching of Scripture (no. 9).

Interestingly, the document points out that knowledge about the teaching of the Bible is better known today than it has been in the recent past. Perceptions of this, I think, vary depending upon location and context. Regardless, it notes that many responses from the bishops who gave input into the document spoke of "the faithful's great desire to know Sacred Scripture better" (no. 9).

It then goes on to speak of the importance of the homily in this regard:
. . . the formation of the clergy stands out as particularly decisive, especially in the quality of homilies, on which the Holy Father, Pope Francis has insisted recently (cf. EG, 135-144). Indeed, the homily is a privileged means of presenting Sacred Scripture to the faithful and explaining its relevance in the Church and everyday life. As a result of preaching in a befitting manner, the People of God are able to appreciate the beauty of God’s Word which is a source of appeal and comfort for the family. (no. 9)
I know I also speak for my co-bloggers here at when I say I was pleased to see this pointed out.

Week after week we offer in-depth analysis of the Sunday readings to assist in spiritual preparation for participation in the liturgy. We are especially grateful to the priests and deacons who have written us to tell us that they have found these reflections helpful for their homily prep. We are especially grateful to those who have shared them with their brother priests and deacons.

To be clear, we don't write homilies. Priests and deacons, using the special charism they have received, need to prayerfully consider what they will do from the pulpit given their own congregation's circumstances and needs. Our purpose is to simply offer some exegetical thoughts that might be helpful towards that end.

Of course, the Sunday readings commentary is not just for homilists. In fact, John and I often talk about how spiritually beneficial working them up--a process that usually takes about 3 hours per reflection--has been for us personally. Truth be told, we write these as much for our own preparation as we do for anyone else's!

Our hope is that anyone interested in getting more out of the lectionary--not just those preparing homilies--will benefit from these reflections. We are very thankful for all of the email and comments we receive from lay Catholics who enjoy reading them as well as part of their own Sunday preparation.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that according to the Instrumentum Laboris, the homily is not the only means of promoting knowledge of Scripture. We read:
In addition to the homily, another important means is the promotion, within dioceses and parishes, of programmes which help the faithful take up the Bible in a proper way. What is recommended is not so much multiplying pastoral initiatives as inserting the Bible in every aspect of existing ministerial efforts on behalf of the family. Every instance where the Church is called to offer pastoral care to the faithful in a family setting can provide an opportunity for the Gospel of the Family to be announced, experienced and appreciated."
We hope this blog will help people engaged in any pastoral work as they seek to bring the Gospel to our hurting world.

1 comment:

Deacon Jay Frantz said...

Dr. Barber,

Please allow me to be another of the deacons that have expressed appreciation for you, Dr. Pitre (although, I do not get to see as many of his posts as I would like, as I love his books) and Dr. Bergsma and the work y'all do.

As one of your former students, I envy your knowledge and am so glad y'all choose to share - please continue to do so for us all.