"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

"Ground Up"

he first point for our reflection is to understand the context of why Jesus forbids his disciples to make oaths (Matthew 5:33-37). This precept is tied to the commandment not to misuse the name of the Lord, especially by heaven, earth, and Jerusalem precisely because these three are too holy. Several Christian groups (Quakers, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Anabaptists) historically have refused to take oaths, including those normally required for legal testimony. They interpret Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount as a command to avoid swearing oaths and to speak simply and truthfully. We find the same reminder in the letter of James "All you need to say is a simple 'Yes' or 'No.' Otherwise you will be condemned" (James 5:12). "Let him be anathema" or "let him be accursed" was used to formalize the condemnation of heresies during the Church's councils.

The term "anathema" has its roots in Greek, before its connotation of being grounded and excommunicated, originally it meant something dedicated or set apart. In modern Catholicism, the use of "anathema" has changed. There is room for dialogue and reconciliation rather than formal and public anathemas or excommunications. Pope Francis has not frequently used the term "excommunication" in the traditional formal sense, he has emphasized a pastoral approach that combines upholding Church teachings with a focus on mercy. In fact Pope Francis uses it at times to make his point heard and in order to shake the status quo. During World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, he famously urged young people to "make a mess." I quote,

"I want to tell you something. What is it that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day? I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses... I want to see the church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools or structures. Because these need to get out!"

Secondly, being "dedicated" or "set apart" is the meaning behind holiness. The Hebrew word for holiness, "kadosh", and the Greek word, "hagios", both carry the meaning of being set apart, sacred, or dedicated to God. For example, in the Old Testament, Israel is called to be a holy nation set apart for God’s purposes (Exodus 19:6). In the New Testament, Christians are called to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:16).

But it seems that our God who is holy does the opposite of what many human precepts have followed in terms of protecting God's holiness. Do not get me wrong. I am not saying we should go against it. No. I would like to follow what Pope Francis did when he said "make a mess." He is simply following Jesus's example who first made the mess when he came to live with us. He turned things upside down, inside out.

This is the meaning of Incarnation. God, in His infinite love and wisdom, chose to become man and enter into the very fabric of our human existence. This divine meddling is not just a theological concept but a reality that has transformed human history and continues to impact our daily lives.

God continues to make a mess through his "meddling" in our daily affairs. God did not remain distant or detached from His creation. Instead, He entered into our world, taking on human form.

My third and last point. In an interview with the Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica, Pope Francis said, "I see clearly that the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the Church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds… And you have to start from the ground up."

Let us not stop God from incarnating Himself, to enter our world "ground up." Henry Nouwen calls this movement "downward mobility." His concept of "downward mobility" is also countercultural idea that contrasts sharply with societal values that prioritize success, power, and upward mobility. Here's a deeper look at what Nouwen means by "downward mobility." It is a radical call to live in imitation of Jesus Christ's humility and service. It invites believers to reject the pursuit of worldly success and embrace a life of solidarity with the marginalized, spiritual growth, community, vulnerability, and trust in God. Doubts and discouragements may arise in this process but let us hold fast to the promise that God is with us, working ground up, day in day out, going ahead of us through the storms of life. Amen. Fr JM Manzano SJ