Continuing with the second call in the celebration of this Jubilee year of Mercy, the Call to Conversatio and Communion I want to explore for the moment a connection between the ongoing conversion of life and greater communion, that is, prophetic dialogue. The Holy Father calls us in this year to build a culture of encounter, one in which can transform the world around. At the heart of this culture of encounter is a prophetic dialogue.
Prophetic dialogue is not just about making sure we speak our truth to another, but it begins with starting from a stance of listening to the other, so that we might truly be in dialogue rather than waiting our turn to speak what is already in our minds. In the case of prophetic dialogue, we are called to encounter the other with a true sense of empathy and ask the question “Where do I come to meet God in this experience and how does this experience proclaim the reign of God?” This experience might directly reveal the reign of God in the affirmative or it might even reveal the reign of God in negation, in either case, the encounter is changed because we are bringing to mind that through each encounter we are called to experience God and to give insight into the reign of God. I am mindful of the rules of discernment of St. Ignatius of Loyola, that even the Evil one can use the good feelings in our lives to lead us astray and God can use even the stinging moments to bring us back to him. In either case, it is all a matter of perspective—that is, how is this experience encounter according to the reign of God and where you stand in relation to God, the community and yourself.
In the US context we find ourselves not so much to have a dialogue about secularism and religious thought, although there is more of a secularity that continues become part of the fabric of the US social context, what we need is a deeper conversion of the already religious. Since I stand within the Catholic-Christian tradition, I will speak from my seat in the pew. What I see is that folks believe in a God, but the needed ongoing conversion has to do with the implications of that belief in God on the political, economic and social fabric of their context. It is something that is extremely hard to do. We have become part of the cultural fabric, but we have not transformed it according to those Gospel values. So in many ways, we need to re-engage in dialogue with the Gospel tradition and have new eyes to see and new ears to hears and in doing so, see things how they really are and not how we think they are….and see them in light and dialogue with Gospel, always widening the circle of understanding. In this process, sometimes it will reaffirm our part of the oppressive structures, but also our own great conversion through the dialogue. So prophetic dialogue not only becomes essential to the evangelization of cultures, but to us as well.
This is the Call to Conversatio and the Call to Communion that is entered into through the process of prophetic dialogue that I see in this year of Mercy. While prophetic dialogue has a lot more to offer in terms of a reflection, this begins the motion of moving us to an encounter with our culture, to dialogue, to reconciliation and to providing hope.