Identity and the Gospel Slap

Responding to the journalists’ first question, that of Fatima Alnajem, sent by the “Bahrain News Agency”, the Pope reflected aloud on the experience of the trip that had just ended and indicated the key word: dialogue. By specifying, however, that the condition for there to be a true and fruitful dialogue is the presence of two face-to-face identities, identities that are not vague and confused, but clear and strong. Francis returned to this theme of identity, implicitly but with particular emphasis, when he concluded the answer to the last question, that of the German journalist Ludwig Rin-Eifel, of the Centrum informationis Catholicum, who compared the Catholic Church in Bahrain (small numerically but growing thanks to a great vivacity rich in hope) with the Church in Germany (rich in money and with a great theological tradition but in strong decline and going through a tormented period) and he spoke of roots, affirming that “the root of religion is the slap that the Gospel gives you, the encounter with the living Jesus Christ: and from there, the consequences, all of them; from there, apostolic courage, from there, to go to the peripheries, even to the moral peripheries of people to help them; but from the encounter with Jesus Christ. If there is no encounter with Jesus Christ, there will be an ethicism disguised as Christianity”.

This is a fundamental point of the entire pontificate of Pope Francis: the return to the source, the reminder of the essential character of the Gospel. Otherwise, the Church would not be distinguished from a “charitable NGO”, because it is not an ethical agency, an institution dedicated to the dissemination of moral values, these are only effects, “consequences”, as he specified on the return flight from Bahrain on Sunday, still in his response to the German journalist: “Sometimes we lose the religious sense of the people, of the holy faithful people of God, and we fall into ethical discussions, discussions of conjuncture, discussions which are theological consequences, but which are not the core of theology”. And the core is precisely “the slap of the Gospel”. This little book of which Saint Augustine said he was afraid, is a text that arouses a crisis in those who approach it with a sincere, free and humble heart, that is to say without instrumental intention or ideological optics. And crisis, the Pope has often repeated, often proves fertile with greater and surprising possibilities and new beginnings if it is not allowed to degenerate into paralyzing fears or conflicting outcomes. But it is important to welcome this slap.

When the Pope visited the Dicastery for Communication on May 24 last year, he said something similar to the editors of “L’Osservatore Romano”, to allow oneself to be slapped by reality, that is, to abandon the illusion of control and the concern to “create” the news, because reality, which is always greater than our ideas, already speaks enough, and sometimes even howls, shouts. And it is in reality, hidden between the folds of events, that the voice of God and his Word are also hidden, Jesus himself who continues to challenge our conscience: it is up to us to listen; this is the “core” of everything, not only of theology, but also of a life lived Christianly and therefore humanly in fullness and at the height of his identity as a son of God. (andrea monda)

Andrea Monda

Identity and the Gospel Slap – L’Osservatore Romano