Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Greetings and peace as we enter into the 22nd year in the Third Millennium! I am reminded of Pope Francis’ remark from his 2015 address to an ecclesial assembly in Florence when he said, “we are not only living in an era of change, but a change of eras.” By this, he was pointing to the sea change that is happening under our feet as one historical epoch dissolves and a new one is gradually emerging.
The passing era was not nearly so long in duration as the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, or the phases of the Modern era. Whatever moniker this time eventually receives—“Postmodernism” or “meta-modernism,” we know it most of all in its effects upon us: a state of near constant disruption and fluidity characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA). The COVID pandemic may not be a direct byproduct of these conditions, but it does exacerbate the feeling of disequilibrium we experience in these times, or what Pope Francis refers to as “squilibrio,” a sense of being off balance, or a bit crazy.
At times we may feel like this emerging new era and its “crazy-making” effects are happening to us, that we are victims of massive, systemic forces beyond our control. But as Pope Francis reminds us in the call to the synodal journey, we are protagonists on this road together. The new era is not only happening to us but through us, co-created with each decision we make alone and together for the kind of Church we serve, and the kind of world we live in.
We may not have chosen to lead in these squilibrio times, but as we are reminded in the liturgical readings throughout this week, the Book of Samuel and the Gospel of Mark, it is not we who choose our call, but God who choses us. God has chosen us for leadership in these times. Whether we feel up to this moment or not is secondary to the confidence that God has in us, that we can discern and serve his will through the Holy Spirit just as Jesus himself does in today’s Gospel. In all humility, we recognize our inadequacy and limitations, yet God is with us, and what we offer of ourselves is enough.
“We cannot do something good and evangelical if we are afraid of the squilibrio. We must take it in our hands: that’s what the Lord tells us, because the Gospel – I think you’ll understand this – is ‘crazy teaching’ (dottrina squilibrata),”- Pope Francis.
Yes, the massive disruption and uncertainty that is characteristic of our times can instigate fear and reactivity, yet, the upset of the status quo releases tremendous potential to be shaped and directed by discerning leaders for a greater good… for more humane, caring, and effective organizations, a more synodal Church, and a world that is more just, peaceful, and fruitful for all.
So, unafraid of the squilibrio, let us humbly answer the call we’ve received and discern the part that God has asked to play in the great project: the conscious, synodal regeneration of the Church and the Gospel inspired co-creation of this new era.
A question to consider at the outset of this new year: what is the role God is calling me to play this year through my leadership, and how is God walking alongside me on the way?
With Fraternal Affection,
Fr. David McCallum SJ