Saturday, July 13, 2013

Light of Faith

The encyclical Light of Faith was written up in the two Catholic Papers, both considering it important enough to editorialize on the subject. An accompanying article in the Catholic Times, quoting a Vatican official, mentioned that the teaching on faith is a means to help heal the wounds of our society. The Peace Weekly expressed the hope that it will be translated into Korean as soon as possible, as the Year of Faith will be ending with the close of this  liturgical year.

Most of the Catholics would not be readers of the encyclical, but they will be getting snippets  from their reading, from sermons,  and from religious educational  programs that many will attend. The Catholic understanding of faith is quite different from many other Christians, for it does not see faith separated from the community of the Church, from our brothers and sisters in the faith. We do not baptize ourselves but are led to the faith by others. It is a gift of God from the past into the present, and it grows within community. The apostolic succession and the first community of faith cannot be separated from our faith life.

Consequently, the Catholic approach will not be popular to many. We have accepted, in many cases, the primacy of individual initiative, to an extent that finds little place for the help we get from others and the community. A sign, perhaps, that the Church is in need of public relations help. Jesus left us a believing community, and it was this community that gave us the Scriptures, and the community into which we are born as Christians. But, unfortunately, It is not something we think about too deeply.

We are shown how our faith can lead humanity to unity, how it fosters solidarity with others, and how it brings us peace in living with others. This is not the understanding of many;  religion is often seen as a cause of division but this is not the understanding we have of faith. Faith is not a private matter. We believe in order to understand, which gives us great freedom and teaches us that we should be open to dialogue with everybody, for we are also in search of truth, and faith needs truth. Faith is linked to truth and love. Love and truth are inseparable.

"Clearly, then, faith is not intransigent, but grows in respectful coexistence with others. One who believes may not be presumptuous; on the contrary, truth leads to humility. Since believers know that, rather than ourselves possessing truth, it is truth which embraces and possesses us. Far from making us inflexible, the security of faith sets us on a journey; it enables, witnesses and dialogues with all" (#34 of the Encyclical Light of Faith).

Since the encyclical is, in the words of Pope Francis, the work of four hands, it will be examined to see who wrote what, but it is the signature of Francis that comes at the end. Benedict wrote an encyclical on love and hope. This one on faith will complete the commentary on the three supernatural virtues we are so familiar with.

The encyclical makes clear that faith does not get rid of our problems, our pains, but we are enabled to share our pains with the knowledge of God's love, and to find new meaning and hope.

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