Intervention by Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, at the XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops – Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment
Holy Father, my brother bishops and friends, all,
As the Instrumentum Laboris in chapter 4 of part 2 takes up the topic of the kind of mentors needed for the Art of Accompanying, we read in number 132 that “for young people, it is particularly important that mentors recognize their own humanity and fallibility.” We should pause a moment, and with the help of the Word of God given to us this week, consider what this means for us as bishops and those who serve as mentors in the art of accompanying. I would like to suggest that the parable of the Good Samaritan as interpreted by the Fathers of the Church has much to offer us.
Beginning with Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150-ca.215), then Origen (ca. 184- ca.254), Ambrose (339-390) and finally, Augustine (354-430)], the early Church understood this parable as a story of our redemption. Their sermons focus, not on how the Samaritan might offer us an example to imitate as disciples but, rather, on how Jesus has saved us, you and me, and only then from that experience are we called to do likewise. In fact, sermons all the way into the 16th century, went along these lines: the wounded man found in a ditch is Adam, fallen by sin, left to die outside the gates of Eden. The priest and the Levite, representing the law, are unable to do anything for him. Only a foreigner, Jesus, one who is not one of us, who is not from here, can help. Like the Samaritan, Jesus himself is a victim of rejection, considered an outlaw; but he stops and tends to Adam’s wounds, saving him and then takes him to the inn, the church, gives a down payment, the beginning of our redemption, and promises to return, the second coming, when Jesus will pay the bill in full.
This rich tradition tells us that before any of us can become a disciple or teach others to be one, each of us must recognize Jesus as the one who entered my history, my chaos, my vulnerability, my woundedness and saved me. This rich tradition is captured in Augustine’s Apologia, reminding us that it is our holiness not our ideas that give credibility to our claims as disciples of Jesus, and it is Pope Francis in our day who continues in this tradition, urging us to embrace the holiness that is forged in the encounter between our weakness and the power of God’s grace (Gaudete et Exultate, 34).
Brothers, if we are to be the kind of mentors young people are telling us they need, we must never forget our history of weakness, failure, sinfulness, the times we have been in the ditch. We must always keep fresh in our minds our own story of how Christ, the Good Samaritan did not pass by, but poured his oil of tenderness in our wounds, lifted us up, redeemed what was unredeemable on our own and opened for us a new future. Nothing we say to young people will mean anything to them, will strike them as authentic, if it does not come from that experience. The more we honestly are in touch with the concrete circumstances of our own history, the greater will be our openness to see the real and possible steps that the Lord is asking in every moment of those we accompany. How true it is: “Grace acts in history; ordinarily it takes hold of us and transforms us progressively. If we reject this historical and progressive reality, we can actually refuse and block grace, even as we extol it by our words.” (Gaudete et Exultate, 50)
Brothers, let us never be afraid to remember the times we were in the ditch. Thank you.