TO PARTICIPANTS IN THE NATIONAL CONVENTION PROMOTED
FROM THE FAMILY CENTER "CASA DELLA TENEREZZA"
ON THE THEME "THE THEOLOGY OF THE TENDERNESS IN POPE FRANCIS"
Thursday, 13 September 2018
Dear brothers and sisters,
I greet you cordially and thank Cardinal Bassetti for the kind words he addressed to me in your name, and also for your words, which have updated me on the work you do. In these days you will reflect on the theology of tenderness, and I would simply like to tell you something, because when I saw that this was the title, I began to study. You made me read this book to understand what "the thing" was. A good book, you know it, that of Rocchetta. He's good ... Is he? [applause]
I, simply, I would like to offer you three ideas.
The first concerns the expression theology of tenderness. Theology and tenderness seem two distant words: the first seems to recall the academic context, the second the interpersonal relations. In reality our faith links them inextricably. Theology, in fact, can not be abstract - if it were abstract, it would be ideology - because it arises from an existential knowledge, born from the encounter with the Word made flesh! Theology is then called to communicate the concreteness of God's love. And tenderness is a good "concrete existential", to translate in our times the affection that the Lord nourishes for us.
Today, in fact, there is less focus on the concept or practice and more on "feeling" than in the past. It may not please, but it is a fact: we start from what we hear. Theology can certainly not be reduced to sentiment, but it can not even ignore that in many parts of the world the approach to vital issues no longer begins with the ultimate questions or social demands, but with what the person emotionally feels. Theology is called upon to accompany this existential quest, bringing the light that comes from the Word of God. And a good theology of tenderness can decline divine charity in this sense. It is possible, because the love of God is not an abstract general principle, but personal and concrete, that the Holy Spirit communicates intimately. In fact, he reaches and transforms the feelings and thoughts of man. What contents could therefore have a tenderness theology? Two seem important to me, and it is the other two ideas that I would like to offer you: the beauty of feeling loved by God and the beauty of feeling loved in the name of God.
Feeling loved. It is a message that has come to us stronger in recent times: from the Sacred Heart, from Merciful Jesus, from mercy as an essential property of the Trinity and of the Christian life. Today the liturgy reminded us of the word of Jesus: "Be merciful, as your Father is merciful" (Lk 6:36). Tenderness can indicate precisely our way of receiving divine mercy today. Tenderness reveals us, next to the paternal face, the maternal one of God, of a God in love with man, who loves us with a love infinitely greater than that which a mother has for her own son (cf. Is 49,15). Whatever happens, whatever we do, we are certain that God is near, compassionate, ready to be moved for us. Tenderness is a beneficial word, it is the antidote to fear in regard to God, because "in love there is no fear" (1 Jn 4:18), because trust overcomes fear. To feel loved, therefore, means learning to trust in God, to tell him, as He wishes: "Jesus, I trust in you".
These and other considerations can deepen the research: to give the Church a "tasty" theology; to help us live a conscious faith, burning with love and hope; to exhort us to bend our knees, touched and wounded by divine love. In this sense, tenderness refers to the Passion. The Cross is in fact the seal of divine tenderness, which is drawn from the wounds of the Lord. His visible wounds are the windows that open his invisible love. His Passion invites us to transform our heart of stone into a heart of flesh, to become passionate about God. And of man, for the love of God.
Here then is the last idea: to feel ourselves to love. When man feels truly loved, he feels inclined to love. On the other hand, if God is infinite tenderness, even man, created in his image, is capable of tenderness. Tenderness, then, far from being reduced to sentimentalism, is the first step to overcome the withdrawal of oneself, to get out of self-centeredness that disfigures human freedom. The tenderness of God leads us to understand that love is the meaning of life. Thus we understand that the root of our freedom is never self-referential. And we feel called to pour into the world the love received from the Lord, to decline it in the Church, in the family, in society, to combine it in serving and giving ourselves. All this not out of duty, but out of love, out of love for him from whom we are tenderly loved. These short cues point to a theology on the way: a theology that emerges from the bottlenecks in which it is sometimes confined and with dynamism turns to God, taking man by the hand; a non-narcissistic theology, but aimed at the service of the community; a theology that is not content to repeat the paradigms of the past, but be Word incarnate. Certainly the Word of God does not change (cf. Heb 1,1-2, 13,8), but the flesh that it is called to assume, this yes, changes in every age. There is so much work, therefore, for theology and for its mission today: to incarnate the Word of God for the Church and for the man of the third millennium. Today more than ever it takes a revolution of tenderness. This will save us. We entrust the deepening of your work to Our Lady, Mother of tenderness. I bless you and, together with you, I bless the communities you come from, asking you to pray and to make people pray for me. Thank you.
FULL TEXT + Image from Vatican.va - Unofficial Translation