What happened yesterday? I thought Pope Benedict was supposed to singlehandedly save the souls of babies? At least that’s what the media was telling me.

Reuters is obviously puzzled. Here is an excerpt from their article.

Pope Benedict has decided to keep limbo in limbo a little longer.

For nearly a year the Church’s International Theological Commission has been working on a document expected to recommend he formally abolish limbo, the place where centuries of Catholic tradition held that babies who die without baptism went.
The Pope said a mass with members of the commission on Friday morning, but, contrary to some media speculation, he did not mention the concept in his homily and announced no decision.
The media reports had said the Pope would formally cancel limbo on Friday but a key participant, Italian Archbishop Bruno Forte, said the 30-member commission were still fine-tuning their document.
“The Pope did not mention it today in his homily. We are still working on the document. No vote has been taken. I think nothing will be ready to hand up to him until 2007,” he told Reuters by telephone after the morning mass with the Pontiff.
Still, it is common knowledge in Church circles that limbo’s days are numbered.

There are many disappointed reporters. As I said in a previous post, religion reporters need to have an understanding of what they are reporting.

Amy has a great post which echoes my opinions and she also includes the text of Pope Benedict’s extemperaneous homily from the Mass with the International Theological Commission. You have to be very impressed with anyone who can deliver an off the cuff homily which is that subperb.

Dear brothers and sisters, I did not really prepare a homily today, just some notes on which to meditate. The mission of St. Bruno, the saint of the day, appears clearly interpreted, we might say, in the prayer for the day which reminds us that his mission was silence and contemplation.

Silence and contemplation have a purpose: they serve to keep – amid the daily distraction of daily life – (a space for) continuing union with God. That is the purpose: that union with God should always be in our spirit and transform all our being.

Silence and contemplation – St. Bruno’s characteristics – help us to find amid the distractions of every day a profound and continuing union with God.

Silence and contemplation! But the calling of a theologian, a beautiful calling, is to talk. That is his mission: amid the loquacity of our time, and other times, amid the inflation of words, to keep the essential words alive and present. To present with words the Word that comes from God, the Word that is God.

But how can we, being part of this world with all its words, present the Word in words, if not through a process of purifying our own thoughts, which above, all should also be a purification of our words?

How can we open the world – ourselves, first of all – to the Word, without first entering into the silence of God, from which the Word proceeds?

For the purification of our words, and therefore, for the purification of words in the world, we need that silence which becomes meditation, which makes us enter into the silence of God and thus arrive at the point from which the Word was born, the redemptive Word.

St. Thomas Aquinas, following a long tradition, says that in theology, God is not the object that we speak of. This is our normal idea. In fact, God is not the object but the subject of theology.

He who speaks in theology should be God himself. Our thoughts and words should serve only so that God’s word can be heard, can find room in the world.

So we find ourselves invited anew to this path of renouncing our own words, on a path of purification so that our words may only be an instrument through which God can speak, so that God is not the object but the subject of theology.

In this context, I am reminded of a beautiful sentence in the first Letter of St. Peter, chapter 1, verse 22. In Latin, it says – «Castificantes animas nostras in oboedentia veritatis» . Obedience to truth should chastify our souls – and thus, guide us to right words and right actions.

In other words, to speak in search of applause, to speak according to what we think others want to hear, to speak in obedience to the dictatorship of common opinion, may be considered a prostitution of words and of the spirit.

The “chastity” that the apostle Peter refers to means not submitting ourselves to common standards, not to seek applause, but rather, obedience to the truth.

I think that is the fundamental virtue of theology, this difficult discipline of obedience to the truth – which makes us co-workers in the truth, the voice of truth, because we do not speak in the rivers of words that characterizes the world today, but in words that are purified and made chaste by obedience to the truth. And therefore, we can be truly bearers of the truth.

This also reminds me of St. Ignatius of Antioch who had this beautiful thought: “Wheover has understood the words of the Lord understands His silence, because the Lord can be known in His silence.”

The analysis of Jesus’s words can only go up to a certain point, which remains our thought. Only when we reach the silence of the Lord, in His being with the Father from whom the words come, only then can we really begin to understand the profundity of these words.

The words of Jesus were born from His silence on the mountain, as the Scriptures tell us, when He was with His Father. From the silence of His communion with the Father, from being immersed in the Father, His words were born.

(Likewise), only by arriving at this point of communion, and taking off from this point, we reach the true depth of the Word and we can be its authentic interpreters.

In talking to us, the Lord invites us to join him on the Mountain, and in silence, learn anew the true sense of His words.

Having said this, we come to the two readings today. Job had cried out to God, he had even struggled with God in the face of the evident injustices he had to deal with. And then he is confronted with the greatness of God. And he understands that in the face of the true greatness of God, our words are mere poverty and cannot even remotely approach the greatness of God, and so he says: “I have spoken twice, I will say no more.”

Silence before the greatness of God, because our words become too puny. It remainds me of the last weeks of St. Thomas’s life – when he stopped writing, he stopped speaking. His friends asked him: “Master, why don’t you speak, why don’t you write?” And he says, “Before what I have seen, all my words seem to me like straw.”

The great expert on St.Thomas, Fr. Jean-Pierre Torrel, tells us not to misunderstand these words. Straw is not nothing. Straw carries the grain, and that is its great value. It carries the grain. So even the straw of words remains valid as a bearer of the grain.

This, I would say, even for us, is a relativization of our work as well as a valuation of it. It is also an indication to us so that the straw of our work should truly carry the grain of God’s Word.

The Gospel today ends with, “Whoever listens to you, listens to me.” What an admonition, what an examination of conscience these words require! Is it true that whoever hears me really hears the Lord? Let us pray and work that it may always be true that whoever listens to us, listens to Christ.

Amen!

Wow! What a great homily. The job of the theologian is not to make the truth, but to allow God to reveal the truth.

What does this mean about Limbo? Basically, it means that as a skilled theologian, Pope Benedict is not going to rush to a conclusion and rather than going on his will, he will allow God to guide him.
Truly shocking stuff!

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