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08 Apr What We Anticipate, We Create!

This morning Pope Francis’ post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia was released by the Vatican (Please click here to read it). This document is the outcome and, in some respects, the summary of the work that was done at the extraordinary and ordinary synods on the family that took place in 2014 and 2015.

Within a few hours of the documents being released, there were already numerous articles from news agencies, bloggers, and social media interpreting the document. Some people say that Pope Francis was too traditional, others say that he broke with tradition. Some even claim that he is redefining the teachings of the Church on marriage and the family.

Like many events in the pontificate of Pope Francis, there seems to be widespread confusion over this document, even though it has only been publicly available for a number of hours. It makes me wonder how people have been able to read the whole document, and understand the intentions of Pope Francis, in such a short time.

I want to share with you some thoughts I have on Amoris Laetitia. In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I have not read the whole document. These are just some thoughts I have after reading some of it and following some of the various news stories, blogs, and social media posts about this document.

The first thing I would like to say is that; what we anticipate, we create. I think it is important to note that often we find what we are looking for when we are reading a document, meeting someone new, attending an event, etc with a preconceived notion in mind. We will quite often find exactly what we thought we would find. This is why I think it is important for us to approach Amoris Laetitia with an open mind. I would encourage everyone to read Amoris Laetitia slowly and prayerfully so that we can allow Pope Francis to share the fruits of his prayer and reflections. I want to implore you, do not allow the controversy surrounding the synods on the family to impact the way you receive Amoris Laetitia.

If we approach Amoris Laetitia looking to find a break with Church teaching we will find sentences or ideas which can confirm our fears. This is what often happens with Scripture. We find a sentence or idea in a particular passage which reinforces our own preconceived notions and we use the passage to justify what we believe to be true. Like Scripture, all Church documents need to be read in context. We cannot pull out one sentence or idea to prove our own way of thinking. This is called proof texting and has led to many errors in people’s understanding of Scripture and the teachings of the Church.

It is impossible for us to learn anything if we approach new things with fear and trembling. We must follow the advice of Pope St. John Paul II and “be not afraid.” We should step out boldly; with an open mind and receptive heart. God is present in everyone and everything around us. If we had the eyes to see and the ears to hear we can find God in all things; even sin is just the twisted version of God’s truth and goodness in our lives.

Pope Francis has worked for months on writing Amoris Laetitia so I think we owe him the courtesy of reading the document slowly, prayerfully, and with an open mind. Let us open our hearts to receive the gift Pope Francis offered to us today without any preconceived notions or expectations so that God can lead us closer to Him through our reflections on this document.

Note: If you would like a brief summary of Amoris Laetitia please click here to read First Thoughts on Amoris Laetitia by Bishop Robert Barron. I found this helpful.