“Accompaniment” Homily for the First Week of Advent
Let’s look at a passage from today’s First Reading from Isaiah:
Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
The passage indicates a journey or a sojourn. How does this apply to us today?
Last year, Pope Francis called for a “Synod on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment.” It was held from October 3 – 28, 2018 in Rome. The previous year, in June 2017, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, announced the launch of a website related to the Synod. The website included two items:
- The Synod’s planning document
- A questionnaire. The questionnaire was offered in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Italian. Young people between 16 – 29 were invited to fill out the questionnaire so that the Synod could gather suggestions and feedback from them. In early July – only one month later – Baldisseri reported that the questionnaire had received more than 60,000 responses and the website had generated 173,000 “contacts.”
Meanwhile in the United States, two young people, Colleen Campbell and Thomas Carani, were discussing the Synod and the document Christus Vivit. Colleen Campbell is a second year Ph.D. student studying Catechetics at The Catholic University of America. She holds a B.A. in Pastoral Ministry from the University of Dallas. Thomas Carani works at a parish in Austin, Texas. He received his B.A. in Theology and Religious Studies from The Catholic University of America. Both Colleen and Thomas are graduates of the Echo Graduate Service Program at the University of Notre Dame, where they both received their Master’s in Theology.
Older people are quick to point out what young people should do. Young people are told what they do do right and what they should avoid that is wrong. The problem is that young people don’t want someone telling them what to do. They want someone to walk with them on their journey. They are very keen on friendship, connections, community. This is called “accompaniment.” It is a hot topic to Pope Francis. It was also a theme that interested Thomas and Colleen.
So the two teamed up with an organization called Catholic Apostolate Center. They wrote a book entitled The Art of Accompaniment. Here’s what they said:
Accompaniment is an intentional relationship oriented towards a definitive direction of growth and holiness and transformation in the person of Jesus Christ.
It is intentional in that it is established by a choice maintained in deliberate communication and interaction and upheld through the mutual investment of both persons involved.
All the faithful have the duty and the ability to practice it by virtue of their baptism.
The task of accompanying has taken different forms according to the historical and cultural situation of the faithful. Now the Holy Spirit breathes new life in the Church.
They were both aware that being a young person in today’s world is hard. Young people are often very hard on themselves. To this point Colleen and Thomas quote Christus Vivit, Chapter 2:
[Christ] is in you, he is with you and he never abandons you. However far you may wander, he is always there, the Risen One. He calls you and he waits for you to return to him and start over again. When you feel you are growing old out of sorrow, resentment or fear, doubt or failure, he will always be there to restore your strength and your hope.
Father Juan Carlos Scannone, S.J. was an Italian – Argentine Jesuit theologian. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of Munich. He was an Instructor in the Jesuit Seminary of San Miguel in Argentina. There he instructed one student named Jorge Bergoglio (You might have heard of him?). The Pope’s idea that the Church needs to have a “local” face is rooted in the teaching of Father Scannone. In fact, in his recent November 20-23 Apostolic Visit to Thailand, the Holy Father talked about a Church that talks about the faith “in dialect.”
Scannone writes that understanding the Lord and the spirituality of people is difficult.One needs to understand the language and the culture and sometimes even the local dialect to understand the community’s understanding of God, faith and spirituality.
We are in a new liturgical season. The Lord wants to do something different over the next four weeks leading up to Christmas. First, this Advent the Lord wants to speak to you in your heart’s
own “dialect.” In order for this to occur, we must listen closely. We may have to struggle to “learn the Lord’s language.”
Second, the Lord also asks you, “Who is ‘accompanying’ you?” Who do you confide in concerning your relationship with God? Who walks along side of you encouraging you, challenging you, explaining the “Lord’s language” to you?
Finally, the Lord also asks, “Who are you ‘accompanying?'” Who is confiding in you concerning their relationship with God?