Jesus Forsaken: today's God
Published by Queriniana, Brescia 2016, 615 pp., 53.00 euros

Vincenzo Di Pilato
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The Acts of an important seminar have been published. This seminar took place at the Rome headquarters of “La Civiltà Cattolica.” About thirty theologians of the highest level coming from 13 countries participated. This book is leaving and will leave its mark in the Church. In this article, we will offer a glance on some of its most relevant contents.

Vatican II reminds us that Jesus, in giving us his Spirit, mystically constituted the Church “as his body” (
LG 7), which is unity in diversity. It is St Paul who sees the Church under this very clear and profound light, finding every division reconciled in her (cf. Gal 3:27-28). As every organism in nature is considered “living” only when it is open, continuously able to regenerate, so the Church – animated by the Word of life, by living Tradition, by the faithful’s sensus fidei, from the teachings and charisms – is called to constantly “regenerate” Holy Spirit.

This constant “spiritual process,” to which the ecclesial “Body” is exposed, is called “Reformation.” In the convention, the central question of the reformation that the Church is living under the guidance of Pope Francis, and of the permanent and current renewal of the Church was placed under the microscope of theological science. It was looked at from different viewpoints and according to interdisciplinary and communal perspectives that reflect the same vast and phlyhedric nature of the subject.

The book is structured in seven parts, according to a gradual and captivating progression. (a) It begins with a glance on the current renewal of the Church in the light of Vatican II; (b) it then turns its attention to the historical lessons about the ecclesial reformation; (c) to then gather in the synodal communion, the key of the renewal of the people of God. (d) The concept of reform highlights the relationship between particular Churches and the universal Church; therefore, (f) the common horizon is what Vatican II indicates to us: the unity of Christians and the whole human family with a style of dialogue. (g) In this process we also gather the need of a constitutive attention to the challenges lived by the poor, by the lack of brotherhood in “political” decisions and inculturation of faith. (h) In all of this a decisive role is covered by “spirituality,” or better, by the Holy Spirit.

In this context A. Spadaro shows that the Ignatian “spirituality” is precisely «the “dark room” of deep, and we would say “chemical” elaboration of Bergoglio’s experiences and his episcopal ministry beforehand and his petrine ministry afterwards. Pope Francis is a “fruit” of the
Spiritual Exercises and his vision of the church is rooted in the “reform of life,” which is a fruit of the Exercises» (p. 21).

The main question of the reform of the Church is that of being a motivation to act “within” present history and at the same time to be detached from it, considering the elaborated “pastoral projects.” But considering them in relation to what? How can we translate this paradox that
tra-nsforms the Church according to the “project” of God in pastoral praxis? The crucial point is right here: in that “tra” that indicates relationship, that indicates eschatological journey between past and future, between the already and not yet, without putting one’s “own” identity at risk.

However, the only more authentic way to be “oneself” is that of constantly living the dynamic of the “exodus,” going towards the O/other, hands-free, without any kind of dead weights. Jesus witnesses this to us, receiving his
form from his relationship with the Father, thanks to the “emptiness” (kenosis) of Self (cf. Phil 2:5-7). This “sonship” is the “form” revealed to all and given completely with his death and resurrection. The reform is therefore nothing other than this insertion in communion through a “self-emptying” in which each one rediscovers their true “I” in the “I” of Jesus-Church (cf. Gal 2:20).

Pope Francis writes, «We are called to this lowering of ourselves: to be “emptied”. To be people who must not live in a self-centred way because the centre … is Christ and His Church. And God is the
Deus semper maior, the God who always surprises us» (3 May 2014). In regards to this A. Spadaro comments: «The reform, for Francis, is rooted in an emptiness of self. If it were not so, if it were just an idea, an ideal project, fruit of one’s desires, even good ones, it would become the umpteenth ideology of change» (p. 22).

Summarizing, we can rediscover in the book, even in the very rich multiplicity, at least three ecclesial
foci: synodality as style, mercy as content, dialogue as method.