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Holy See official calls for greater support of Syrian refugees – Perspectives Daily

Tonight on Perspectives: The Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Paul Gallagher calls for greater support for Syrian refugees, and Pope Francis is reunited with an Argentinian organization he helped found for kids on the margins.

Pope wants more merciful tweets, posts and comments


(Photo: CNS)

Pope Francis says a lot of surprising and challenging things.  Often I read something he’s said or written and say to myself, “I can’t believe he said that.”  Still—as with anything else—we can become desensitized to his spontaneity and candour, and we risk glossing over some of his highly consequential statements.

One recent statement that we should not gloss over is his message for World Communications Day 2016 entitled, Communication and Mercy: A Fruitful Encounter. In it, he reflects on the urgent need for more charitable and merciful communication between individuals, with a clear focus on the world of social media and communications.  The message prompted atypical news coverage from the digital world: “Apparently Pope Francis Can’t Stand Internet Trolls Either,” read the headline at ThinkProgress. Or, my personal favorite from RawStory, “Pope Francis opens a can of whoop a** on hateful internet trolls—and it’s beautiful.”

With this message Pope Francis did what he so often does; he struck a nerve with a wide audience by using simple, relatable and deeply Christian language. The message applies to all types of communication certainly, but since many people today live “online”, here are 7 direct quotes that should prompt all of us to reflect on how we communicate using social media:

1) “What we say and how we say it, our every word and gesture, ought to express God’s compassion, tenderness and forgiveness for all.”

Here the Pope makes an important observation that how we say something is as important as what we say. It’s easy to forget that and it’s often difficult to try to rephrase something we want to say in light of another person, let alone with “compassion, tenderness and forgiveness”.  Perhaps for every tweet, post or comment we should send another one explicitly expressing compassion, tenderness or forgiveness.

2) “Our words and actions should be such as to help us all escape the vicious circles of condemnation and vengeance which continue to ensnare individuals and nations, encouraging expressions of hatred.”

Here Pope Francis flips the script on us and reminds us that how we communicate has a deep impact on us too. The purpose of communicating is, as he says, to create “closeness”, which is a reciprocal phenomenon. We can ask ourselves, how do my communications on social media affect my own attitudes toward others and my relationships with them?

3) “The words of Christians ought to be a constant encouragement to communion and, even in those cases where they must firmly condemn evil, they should never try to rupture relationships and communication.”

Pope Francis, the “sinner whom the Lord has looked upon,” never forgets that being Christian starts with conversion of self. No statement condemning vicious and vengeful comments online would be complete without a direct challenge to his fellow Christians, who are often the most viscous and vengeful trolls. But the deeper challenge here is that condemning evil—something the Church does very often—shouldn’t destroy relationships or communication. The logical conclusion here is analogous to that old saying our mothers used, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say it.” When there are human beings involved, jumping to condemn all kinds of evil through objective, categorical statements may not be the most merciful method of communication and relationship building.

4) “The truth is ultimately Christ himself, whose gentle mercy is the yardstick for measuring the way we proclaim the truth and condemn injustice.”

It’s often said in church circles that the greatest act of mercy is to tell the truth. Therefore, if someone is committing an unjust act, I am being merciful by categorically condemning it. That may or may not be the best approach, depending on the situation. The most important variable, according to Pope Francis, is how Jesus would communicate in a particular situation. This requires a deep familiarity with the Jesus of the Gospels whose “gentle mercy” time and time again overwhelms both sinner and judge alike, to the point that the person committing an unjust act truly encounters God’s forgiveness and the person standing in judgement feels it necessary to get rid of Jesus. The question becomes, not whether or not we’re proclaiming the truth, but whether or not we’re proclaiming the truth as Jesus did.

5) “Harsh and moralistic words and actions risk further alienating those whom we wish to lead to conversion and freedom, reinforcing their sense of rejection and defensiveness.”

This statement builds on #4 by taking us a step further. Speaking the truth in a harsh and moralistic way is no guarantee that a person will be converted or freed. In fact, it will most likely have the opposite effect and kill any chance of further communication. Just because we may be right about something doesn’t give us the right to communicate it if a person will feel rejected because of it. Pope Francis’ whole pontificate is the preeminent example in our world today of communicating truth without using harsh or moralistic words.

6) “I would like to encourage everyone to see society not as a forum where strangers compete and try to come out on top, but above all as a home or a family, where the door is always open and where everyone feels welcome.”

Communications technology has turned the world into a global society. We may be more connected, but the online world doesn’t particularly feel like a family. Often we come across comments or tweets that are so negative or competitive and we wonder why someone would say something online that they would never say to a person in real life. Again Pope Francis takes us a step further. When we communicate online, we shouldn’t ask ourselves, “would you say this to the person’s face?” but, “would you say this to your brother’s or sister’s face?” The analogy of the family for society as a whole is a bold one. The key here is unconditional inclusivity. I’m not sure how we can put that into practice, especially because, sadly, even many families fall short of this lofty goal. Pope Francis certainly does swing for the fences, but then again so did Jesus when he proclaimed the Kingdom of God was at hand.

7) “Listening is much more than simply hearing… Listening means paying attention, wanting to understand, to value, to respect and to ponder what the other person says.”

Well… then I’m not a very good listener. Imagine… listening to someone entails a desire to be closer to them in respect and understanding. We tend to think that communication is all about what we say, but there are two sides to every coin. How often do we really try to listen to another person’s views and try to understand where they are coming from? There are so many news outlets and blogs that adhere to one particular ideology and exclude any kind of constructive critique or dialogue with differing views. It may be worth putting some time in to read one of those blogs that we typically ignore for ideological reasons, and share something from it on our own social media platforms that is respectful and constructive. In other words, listen, and show it.

On Further Reflection
In the complex world of the 21st century there are more questions than answers. The challenge for the Church is to find new and effective ways of bringing the Gospel message into the conversation.  For her part, the Church can act as a much needed voice for dialogue, reason and charity. On Further Reflection invites readers to go beyond the headlines to see the deeper realities affecting the church and society.  Sebastian Gomes is a producer and host at Salt+Light TV.

What about Catholic unity?


(US bishops listen to a speaker during their annual general assembly in November 2015. CNS photo/Bob Roller)

It’s the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, a celebratory yet solemn week when Christians recall what unites them and reflect on the challenges still preventing full, sacramental unity. Over the past few years I’ve had the chance to meet a number of Christians of various traditions who work in the field of ecumenism at the institutional and local levels. I’m always deeply impressed and inspired by their resolve, pastoral and theological sensitivity and joy, frankly, despite the slow, uphill battle they are fighting.

Ecumenical dialogue over the past fifty years has brought us a long way. First, the problem of division among Christians was named for what it was: a “scandal” and “contradiction” to Christ according to Vatican Council II, and from there the dialogue was propelled forward. Then methodologies for effective dialogue and occasions for encounter and listening were created. There have been bumps along the road and, as I mentioned, serious challenges remain. But no one can deny that over the years a spirit of mutual respect and charity has come to define ecumenical dialogue between the churches.

Now, contrast that spirit with the one we sometimes find in the Catholic Church among those who disagree on any number of theological or pastoral issues. Notable absences: mutual respect and charity.  How can that be?

For hundreds of years Protestants and Catholics adopted an “us against them” attitude that defined, in part, their ecclesial identities. Today that attitude is impossible to maintain theologically, not least because it’s simply anti-Christian. But it has not gone away. Instead it’s been redirected at fellow Catholics. A quick search on the internet will unearth a number of Catholic commentators who define their “catholicity” by the apparent “unorthodoxy” of other Catholics. Hmmm.

Recently I read Ross Douthat’s “A Crisis of Conservative Catholicism” in which he admirably sketches a portrait of the conservative branch of the American church as it stands two-and-a-half years into the pontificate of Pope Francis. The published lecture was quick to draw responses from Michael Sean Winters and Fr. Thomas Reese, SJ both of the National Catholic Reporter (unsurprisingly, as Douthat explicitly called out the NCR in his lecture), revealing a clear divide in American Catholic understanding.

Let me be clear.This is not a critique of Douthat, Winters or Reese for a lack of charity or respect in their discourse. In fact, I applaud Douthat for his sincere attempt to critically examine the conservative narrative, and likewise Winters and Reese for their rich and respectful critiques of Douthat.

I mention this recent public discussion because permeating Douthat’s analysis—sincere as it may be—is the Reformation-old “us against them” attitude which has been reincarnated in the Catholic Church in the US over the past fifty years (and to a lesser but significant degree in Canada). This kind of suspicion or outright mistrust between decidedly conservative and liberal Catholics would not fly in any serious ecumenical dialogue today. But it’s allowed more and more to run rampant in the Catholic Church.

It took a church council, Vatican II—the highest expression of authority in the Catholic Church—to kick start participation in the ecumenical movement, which eventually transformed the old attitudes of mistrust. Can the current internal crisis be addressed and the Catholic Church once again set down a path toward unity? It will require new methodologies for effective dialogue and occasions for encounter and listening. Another council may not be necessary, but like Vatican II, it seems to me that the responsibility for this task is squarely in the hands of the bishops.

So, perhaps during this week of prayer for Christian unity, Catholics (including Catholic bishops) can also reflect on the meaning of unity within the Catholic Church itself and pray that the Holy Spirit removes mistrust and inspires charity. Though the ecumenical movement has not achieved its goal of full unity among Christians, the maturation of the dialogue over the past fifty years and the mutual respect and charity with which it is practiced today are noteworthy achievements from which Catholics can learn a great deal.

“We must never forget that we are pilgrims journeying alongside one another. This means that we must have sincere trust in our fellow pilgrims, putting aside all suspicion or mistrust, and turn our gaze to what we are all seeking: the radiant peace of God’s face.”
Pope Francis on Ecumenical Dialogue (Evangelii Gaudium, 244)


On Further Reflection
In the complex world of the 21st century there are more questions than answers. The challenge for the Church is to find new and effective ways of bringing the Gospel message into the conversation.  For her part, the Church can act as a much needed voice for dialogue, reason and charity. On Further Reflection invites readers to go beyond the headlines to see the deeper realities affecting the church and society.  Sebastian Gomes is a producer and host at Salt+Light TV.

Global challenges can bring Christians together

Pope Francis accepts a gift of a fig tree cutting from Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, during a private meeting at the Vatican June 16. The cutting is from a tree at Lambeth Palace that was planted in 1556 by Cardinal Reginald Pole, the last Roman Catholic archbishop of Canterbury. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano) (June 25, 2014) See POPE-WELBY June 16, 2014.

Next week Christians celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The important celebration dates back to 1908 and was inspired by Fr. Paul Wattson and the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement in Graymoor, New York.

More advances along the road to unity have taken place over the past century than over the previous 350 years. In our Catholic history, we can point to the Second Vatican Council of the 1960’s as the watershed moment that brought the Catholic Church officially into the ecumenical movement.

Since then, more progress has been made. But there are also key challenges in the ongoing dialogue. Issues especially relating—not to questions of salvation, but rather morality—continue to divide Catholics and some mainline Protestant churches. Just this week the Primates of the Anglican Communion are meeting in Canterbury to discuss—among other important topics—homosexual relations; a discussion that could divide the Anglican Communion and affect the ongoing Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue.

Apart from such issues, the current global reality presents significant challenges to all the Christian churches. The refugee crisis, the widespread persecution of Christians and the ecological crisis demand the attention of the churches and a deeper reflection on the importance of unity today.

Ecumenism is not easy, but it is necessary, since, as the Second Vatican Council articulated, “Such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature.” (Decree on Ecumenism, 1) So the work continues.

(In studio: guest host Sebastian Gomes with ecumenical experts Bishop Linda Nicholls and Fr. Damian MacPherson, SA)

This week in a special episode of Perspectives: The Weekly Edition, we examine where the ecumenical discussion stands today. Guests include Bishop Linda Nicholls, area Bishop for Trent-Durham and Co-Chair of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue in Canada, and Fr. Damian MacPherson, SA, Director for Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs for the Archdiocese of Toronto. Topics discussed include the recent history of the Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue, the common challenges facing the churches today, and the influence of Pope Francis on the ecumenical movement.

For the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, be sure to check out the “Did You Ever Wonder?: Small Answers to Big Questions” initiative recently put together by the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue in Canada.

And for those in the Greater Toronto Area, an ecumenical prayer service will be held at Good Shepherd Chaldean Catholic Cathedral on Sunday, January 24, 2016 at 4:00pm. The homilist will be Cardinal Thomas Collins. Also present will be Anglican Archbishop Colin Johnson, Chaldean Catholic Bishop Emanuel Shaleta, Evangelical Lutheran Bishop Michael Pryse, and other city-wide religious leaders.

Perspectives: Ecumenical Update 2016
Friday, January 15 at 7pm and 11pm ET / 8pm PT


On Further Reflection
In the complex world of the 21st century there are more questions than answers. The challenge for the Church is to find new and effective ways of bringing the Gospel message into the conversation.  For her part, the Church can act as a much needed voice for dialogue, reason and charity. On Further Reflection invites readers to go beyond the headlines to see the deeper realities affecting the church and society.  Sebastian Gomes is a producer and host at Salt+Light TV.

6 things to consider ahead of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family

Synod Report Blog Photo

Among the many topics discussed in our recent 2015 Year in Review program was the highly anticipated and much debated Synod of Bishops part two, on the vocation and mission of the family today.

It was easily the biggest news story in the Catholic world last year, and could very well carry over into 2016. That’s because we’re still awaiting the definitive conclusion to the Synods on family life in the form of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation.

Since the 1960’s, an apostolic exhortation has been the traditional form of teaching that concludes a Synod of Bishops; a teaching document written by the Pope alone but factoring in the deliberations and propositions of the Synod Fathers. There’s no scheduled date for the release of Pope Francis’ exhortation on the family, but it is expected to drop sometime before the end of the Year of Mercy (November 20, 2016).

In the meantime it’s a good idea to read, study and discuss the Final Report from the 2015 Synod of Bishops, recently translated into English. This is the result of the more than two-year reflection that took place in the universal Church and among the Bishops gathered in Synod during October 2014 and 2015.

About a third of the 265 bishops who voted on this Final Report were also present at the Synod in October 2014. In that sense there was a great deal of continuity between the Synods. To get a sense of the content and tone of the Synods, this Final Report is key. Here are 6 things to consider as we await Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family:

  1. This will be Pope Francis’ second exhortation.  This doesn’t seem that important until we recall how revolutionary his first exhortation was. Evangelii Gaudium dropped in November of 2013, less than a year after his election. It was supposed to be an exhortation based on the 2012 Synod on the New Evangelization under Pope Benedict. Then Cardinal Bergoglio wasn’t present at that Synod.  So instead of using the draft text that was prepared for him when he became Pope, Francis simply wrote his own document on evangelization. The document is unlike any papal teaching we’ve seen. It’s full of practical ideas that are easily understood by everyone. It also contains some profound challenges for the Church like this programmatic line from paragraph 49: “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.” If the new exhortation on the family is anything like Evangelii Gaudium, we’re in for another rollercoaster ride.
  2. This will be the second exhortation on the theme of the family. There have only been fourteen general Synods since their inception back in the 60’s. So it might be surprising to learn that two have dealt with the same topic: the family. The first took place under Pope John Paul II in 1980 from which came the influential document Familiaris Consortio. Now Saint John Paul II is widely regarded as “the Pope of the family” because of the frequency and depth of his teaching on the subject. Many in the Church still consider this body of teaching to be relevant, so the question can be asked, why was it necessary to have another Synod on the family? Along with the Final Report from the 2015 Synod, a reading or re-reading of Familiaris Consortio is vital for anyone interested in seeing where and how Francis might develop the teachings of JPII.

  3. An exhortation is official Catholic teaching. Considering what was just said in #2, it’s important to remember that all exhortations are “official” Catholic teaching. It wouldn’t make sense to say that Francis’ exhortation will diminish or discredit John Paul’s. History has shown that Popes will build on previous papal teachings rather than nullify them. Certainly there will be differences in tone, style and content between Francis’ and JPII’s exhortations, but don’t expect a complete whitewash. At the same time, we have to remember that Francis is the Pope, Peter, the Vicar of Christ, and whatever he says about family life at this moment in history is highly consequential for every Catholic.

  4. There is a clear shift in tone and approach. As with everything Francis, we witnessed at the 2014 and 2015 Synods a clear shift in tone and approach to important theological and pastoral issues. One example is the kind of language used to describe complex situations people find themselves in today and the Church’s pastoral attitude in response. In paragraph 70 the Synod Fathers wrote that in complex situations, “Pastoral ministry on behalf of the family clearly proposes the Gospel message and gathers the positive elements present in those situations, which do not yet or no longer correspond to this message.” Throughout this Final Report we find this type of pastoral approach: to begin the conversation by pointing out what’s good in people’s lives as opposed to where they fail to live up to the Christian ideal. Look for nothing less in Francis’ exhortation.

  5. The Final Report says a lot in what it doesn’t say. Navigating the 2014 and 2015 Synods can be difficult. It’s not always clear where developments happened. I often say that if a Catholic who didn’t follow the Synod picked up the Final Report out-of-the-blue and read it, he or she would conclude that nothing has changed. The Catholic Church doesn’t change drastically overnight—even under Pope Francis—rather many of the important developments in our understanding of teaching and practice happen subtly. Perhaps the best example of subtle development in the Final Report concerns the highly contentious issue of the reception of Communion by divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. From the time of Familiaris Consortio the Church has articulated very clearly and directly its position of not admitting divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion. The issue reignited at the 2014 and 2015 Synods. Some Bishops advocated for re-examining the Church’s position in some cases, others defended the established teaching unequivocally. Interestingly, the Final Report did not mention at all the reception of the Sacraments by divorced and remarried Catholics. It simply did not make a definitive statement one way or the other. But considering the Church’s aforementioned categorical denial of the possibility of admitting divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion, the fact that the Synod Fathers did not reaffirm this established position is highly significant. So generally speaking, in order to understand what’s happening we must read between the lines and see that something consequential can be said by not saying anything. In any case, it’s up to Francis as the Pope to make an authoritative decision.

  6. There’s much more in the Final Report than the issue of the reception of the sacraments by divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. Considering what was just said in #5, it’s important to remember that the Synods were about much more than the issue of Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. The Final Report consists of 94 paragraphs that address countless challenges facing families today. They also express much hope and faith in families and promote a spirit of encouragement and accompaniment among the pastors of the Church. One of the great developments of the 2014 and 2015 Synods often overlooked was the call for a new kind of language that reaches people today. The mission of evangelization is still at the heart of the Catholic Church, and what permeates the Final Report is that positive and hopeful spirit that we’ve come to know and love in the Church under Pope Francis.  We should remember that before getting bogged down in any one particular issue.



On Further Reflection
In the complex world of the 21st century there are more questions than answers. The challenge for the Church is to find new and effective ways of bringing the Gospel message into the conversation.  For her part, the Church can act as a much needed voice for dialogue, reason and charity. On Further Reflection invites readers to go beyond the headlines to see the deeper realities affecting the church and society.  Sebastian Gomes is a producer and host at Salt+Light TV.

A sneak peek at St. Michael’s Cathedral renovations – Perspectives Daily

Tonight on Perspectives: we go inside the Cathedral of St. Michael in Toronto, Ontario to see what it will look like when renovations are complete.

Reflecting on the Birth of the Messiah


Salt and Light’s latest documentary, The Birth of the Messiah premiered on Christmas Eve and is now available for viewing online.

The film takes a closer look at the familiar Christmas story as it is told in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Many are surprised to learn that Mark and John do not have infancy narratives (ie. Nativity stories), but start their gospels from a different theological point of view.

The Birth of the Messiah uses an historical-critical approach to the infancy narratives to try to understand what Matthew and Luke wanted to communicate about the identity of Jesus of Nazareth.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “To interpret Scripture correctly, the reader must be attentive to what the human authors truly wanted to affirm and to what God wanted to reveal to us by their words.” (CCC, 109)

Sebastian and Laurie

Such an understanding takes us beyond a literal or primitive reading of the text.  As the truth of the Evangelists’ account is gradually revealed, Christians come to a more profound understanding of the Messiah and the consequences of discipleship today.

(Photo left: New Testament scholar Sr. Laurie Brink, OP and writer/director Sebastian Gomes examine a verse in Matthew’s infancy narrative during their interview for The Birth of the Messiah

With this in mind, we invite anyone who watches The Birth of the Messiah to reflect on these and other important questions during this Christmas season:



 Reflection/discussion questions for The Birth of the Messiah

1) Matthew and Luke’s accounts differ significantly in historic detail.  But they do agree on some fundamental points, that Jesus was the long-awaited and prophesied Messiah.  Where else to Matthew and Luke agree?  Why are these elements significant?  How do these elements shed light on the historic variances?

2) Matthew’s protagonist is Joseph: What do we learn about Joseph in Matthew’s account?  What can Joseph teach us about discipleship?

3) Luke’s protagonist is Mary: What do we learn about Mary in Luke’s account?  What can Mary teach us about discipleship?

4) What do Matthew and Luke’s accounts suggest about their communities in the latter part of the first century? (Both gospels were written in different regions in the 80’s AD)

5) How does an historical-critical analysis of our Scriptures affect the way the Church reads and understands the Scriptures?  Why is this so important today?

6) How do the infancy narratives challenge the Church today?

Focus on baby Jesus this Christmas, Pope says – Perspectives Daily

Tonight on Perspectives: Pope Francis instructs Christians to focus on the baby Jesus in the crib during his general audience.

Thank you, Vatican II


“What does Christmas mean to you?” This is a common question posed during the Advent season, and one that evokes in many of us fond memories and feelings of gratitude.

This week, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council, similar feelings have pervaded me. Many thoughtful and inspiring reflections are being shared in Catholic circles, and in the spirit of Advent I would like to join my voice to the choir of those singing praise for the great religious event that was Vatican II.

And so I ask myself, “what does Vatican II mean to me?”

In a way I feel a bit like St. Paul, who was so totally convinced of the truth of the resurrection and the salvific work of Christ, having never met Jesus of Nazareth in the flesh. He must certainly have been an enigma to the Apostles who knew Jesus personally.

I wasn’t at the Council. I was born in the 1980’s, some twenty years after it closed. I didn’t know anything significant about it until I was an adult. Yet, I’ve become convinced through faith, reason and a study of history that the Council was a truly inspired event.

Some would call me naïve. I wasn’t around for the tumultuous 60’s and 70’s. I didn’t experience the rapid and jarring shifts in the Church, the memories of which—for better or for worse—still linger in the hearts and minds of Catholics of those generations.

Undoubtedly, I arrived on the scene after things had settled down. I’ve only ever known the “Vatican II Church.” So it would be easy, perhaps natural, for me to take it for granted. I find this is generally the case with Catholics of my generation.

But in a way this allows us to look at the Council with fresh eyes; we don’t carry a lot of ecclesial baggage. And this, I think, can be helpful on this anniversary when the whole Church is remembering an integral part of its recent history.

What does Vatican II mean to me? It means a lot and here’s why:

Simply put, Vatican II re-articulated the Gospel and the role of the Church for the modern era. In its reflections and proclamations, it was able to capture the revolutionary spirit and missionary impulse that permeate the Gospels. Anyone who studies and prays the Gospels using the methods encouraged by the Church will clearly see the connection between them and the sixteen Council documents. The Spirit was so at work in this process that we now speak often of Vatican II as a “new Pentecost.” The Council challenged itself to do what it must always do: go back to the source and conform itself to the founder. The consequences of doing this are, like the founder himself, revolutionary.

This leads to a related point about the Council that has struck me in a profound way. It’s difficult to articulate. By going back to the source, that is, by doing what the Church must always do, the Church, at Vatican II, did what it has always done. The nuance of this should not obscure the enormous historical fact that lies behind it.

If we agree that Vatican II was revolutionary—for better or for worse—we have at least to conclude that this revolution is strangely common to our Tradition. When we look at the history of the Catholic Church we find over and over again in the Tradition this perpetually reincarnated revolution.

It is a paradox. And when we comprehend it, we then notice a corresponding irony. We tend to think of revolution as being decidedly unfaithful to the Tradition. Revolution typically means revolt against the established order. And interestingly, Vatican II is sometimes categorized this way: as a revolution that went too far; a revolution that compromised too much; a revolution that was unfaithful in some ways to the Tradition; a revolution that was not entirely orthodox.

But the truth is that Vatican II was a revolution precisely in its achievement of conforming the modern Church to Christ and the Tradition. Orthodoxy, properly understood, is the thousand little Vatican IIs that have happened over and over again throughout the Church’s history. The Council should be seen in this light: as a recent revolution in a long line of faithful revolutions going all the way back to Christ.

That, in a nutshell, is what Vatican II means to me. And I am grateful for it. In a remarkable way it has brought me closer to Jesus and helped me understand why I’m a Catholic. The really wonderful thing about the Council is that it didn’t happen so long ago. Only 50 years later we are compelled to remember it, study it, and immerse ourselves in it so that we can faithfully discern where the Holy Spirit is leading the Church. The Council is a sure signpost.

Thank you, Vatican II.


SebastianGOn Further Reflection
In the complex world of the 21st century there are more questions than answers. The challenge for the Church is to find new and effective ways of bringing the Gospel message into the conversation.  For her part, the Church can act as a much needed voice for dialogue, reason and charity. On Further Reflection invites readers to go beyond the headlines to see the deeper realities affecting the church and society.  Sebastian Gomes is a producer and host at Salt+Light TV.

New S+L documentary explores the Infancy Narratives


If someone asked you to tell them the Christmas story as it’s told in the Gospels, how would you tell it?  What would you include?  What would you emphasize?  How accurate would your retelling be?

The common image of the Christmas story that we have in our minds comes from traditional nativity scenes.  We see them in churches, on people’s lawns, on Christmas cards, etc.  We all know the main characters in the scene: there’s Mary and Joseph with the baby Jesus, the Angel Gabriel, the Shepherds from the nearby hillside with their sheep and the Magi from the far East.

Interestingly, if you included all these characters in your retelling, you would be describing a very different story than we find in any one of the Gospels.  Only two of the four canonical Gospels—Matthew and Luke—have an “infancy narrative,” that is, a Christmas story of the birth and infancy of Jesus.  Mark and John say absolutely nothing about the birth of Jesus and his infant years.

SebShowsXmas1Matthew and Luke have infancy narratives, as I said, but they differ greatly in detail.  For example, the Shepherds, who play a key role in Luke’s narrative as the first to hear and respond to the proclamation of the birth of the Messiah, don’t appear at all in Matthew.  Whereas the Magi, or “three kings” don’t appear in Luke!
This is just one of many examples of significant differences in detail between Matthew and Luke’s narratives.  So, why do we include both the Shepherds and the Magi in our nativity scenes?

Well, there is a good reason why we do, and that’s one of the areas I explore in a new documentary on the infancy narratives.  It’s called “The Birth of the Messiah” and will premiere this Christmas Eve on S+L.

In it, I use modern Catholic Biblical scholarship to navigate these two extraordinary infancy narratives.  What has become clear in my research is that each one is very much a story in itself!  Each has its own unique characters and symbols, language and historical details, all feeding into a bigger theological picture of who this Jesus really is!

It’s been a learning experience to say the least; a deep study of the Scriptures always is.  With this in mind, ask yourself the question again: how would I tell the Christmas story?

The Birth of the Messiah
Premieres Thursday, December 24
8pmET / 5pmET
Only on Salt and Light TV