Preaching by br. Max Cappabianca, OP, Province of Teutonia

July 20, 2022
First Reading (Jr 1.4-10), Gospel (Mt 13, 1-9)

Br. Max Cappabianca

Dear brothers and sisters,

Yesterday, brother Joseph Ellul reflected on the fact that prophets, in general, have a difficult character. This explains why Dominicans are not always charming… Joking aside, prophets are awkward, uncomfortable for themselves and sometimes threatening to others. This is the reason why the Word of God is entrusted to them. And it calls for decision!

The first reading, which describes the vocation of Jeremiah, speaks to us because we can recognise ourselves in this young man who says: “Lord my God! I cannot speak, I am a child!”… even if we are already advanced in age!

But the risky character of the prophetic vocation remains present : God reassures Jeremiah about the people to whom he is sent. “Do not fear them, for I am with you to deliver you.”

In our Order, we have quite a few brothers —sisters and lay people— who live in circumstances that require a prophetic word, sometimes a dangerous one. These can be authoritarian regimes like in Myanmar or some countries in Latin America, or contexts where some fundamental values are being challenged. And like the biblical prophets, our brothers experience resistance as well. Wan people do not want to hear the word of truth. Taboos are established, and any different view is forbidden. I dare say that these resistances can be considered as one of the main ‘criteria’ for prophecy.

And yet, it’s not as easy as that. Everyone is convinced that he’s on the side of truth. This is why fundamentalists often have a very ‘prophetic’ —and not very pleasant— impulse.

But how do you then establish what is a true and what is a false prophet?

I think it is all based on discernment in Medio Ecclesiae. And this discernment shouldn’t be done alone, but only in community. Only in the exchange between brothers and in contact with those who are in charge of guiding the flock, one discovers whether a preaching is really prophetic…or a private peculiarity.
Of course, there is tradition, doctrine, the Magisterium, but at the same time there are current challenges that require a new response inspired by the Gospel.

I would like to give example from such a current from my country, that is more aimed at the Church ad intra: the synodal path in Germany.

Thanks to the Dominican Order —and the ten years I was allowed to live in Rome— and also thanks to this General Chapter here, I have friends all over the world. And these friends always ask me: “What on earth are you doing in Germany? Even the bishops are heretics there?” Perhaps you have heard of Pope Francis’remark to the president of the German bishops’ conference, who is said to have said, regarding the synodal path in Germany: “There is a very good Protestant church in Germany. We don’t need a second one.”

It is true that there have been excesses in this German synodal path. Essential elements of the church have been called into question. But we must not forget that the Church in Germany was deeply shaken by the sexual abuse scandals. And this ‘earthquake’ is at the origin of the radical questioning of some traditional aspects of church life:

  1. power in the church,
  2. priests and their way of life (including celibacy),
  3. the role of women, and
  4. the new realities concerning sexuality and affectivity.

I think the Church in Germany has a prophetic role to play for the whole Church. And as with the prophets this role isn’t at all pleasant. There is a risk of remaining with few friends, and the critical letters from several bishops’ conferences to the bishops in Germany make this clear.

Dear brothers and sisters,

I am well aware that perhaps in Germany we are on the “Holzweg”, as we say here, a metaphor for a wrong road. In French I think we say “aboyer le mauvais arbre”. But it may be that the “German revolution” is a prophetic word, which we are all invited to accept and discern.

I invite you, therefore, to listen to what the Church in Germany has to say. And I can reassure you: we remain Catholics, therefore kat’holon: aiming at the whole, oriented all together towards God the Trinity. And I —and the Church in Germany— do want to welcome also the prophetic witness of the other local churches! Our chance as brothers in the same global Order is to be able to know different points of view and to be able to discern together. This is what we are doing here in this chapter, even if sometimes our difficult and not very charming characters show up…
We are here to listen to each other’s words.
Perhaps it is prophetic…

br. Max Cappabianca

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