Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Year for Faith

In the context of the Synod of the Catholic Church concerning the New Evangelization for transmitting the Christian faith, “The Year of Faith” is inaugurated.

Our very life is an occurrence of faith. The existence of every human being occurs as a combined sum of daily and permanent acts of faith. Faith in life, in ourselves, in all that happens and all that surrounds us. We could not live without faith, without trust (in the food we consume, in the chair that sustains us, in the shower we take and the traffic in which we move, we live trusting in the validity of the present and in our expectant hope for tomorrow…). To live is to trust. Thus the experience of religious faith implies, first of all, profound anthropological roots in the experience of every man and woman in their daily tasks.

Religion is, of itself, an experience of faith, or in faith. On the basis of their religious experience human beings trust and build their life (their yesterday, today, tomorrow and their final and definitive destiny) based on the power of the Transcendent One. As Christians we have placed all our confidence in the God revealed in Jesus Christ: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

A “Year of Faith” is a fitting occasion to plumb more deeply the meaning of our human and religious experience: our vital experience of trusting —through Christ, with him and in him— in the Father, by the Son, in the Holy Spirit. A “Year of Faith” is a providential opportunity to reflect upon our faith in Christ and the implications which the experience of trusting in God have in each of our lives, that of our families, our work and the various contexts (labor, academic, political and economic) in which we live.

The Christian religious experience is that, above all: an experience, a vital practice that coincides with our human existence and involves all our life and activity. The faith of every human being, just as that of Jesus of Nazareth, is a human experience, lived out and tested in the occurrences of every day and in every new and changing circumstance, in all of which we are able to place all our confidence and hope in the God of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, faith is not in the first sense a doctrinal matter (even though this is assumed) nor a concept, nor the celebration of a rite. Christian faith is an experience of human life: a human life that trusts in God, the same as:

The faith of Abraham: Gn 22,1-19
The faith of Job: “God gave; God took away” (Job 2,10)
The faith of Jesus: “Father, in your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk 23,45).
The faith of Mary: “Let it be to me according to your word”(Lk 1,26-38)
The faith of the leper: “If you want to, you can heal me” (Mt 8,1-3)
That of the centurion: “One word of yours is all that is required to heal me”(Mt 8,5-8).
That of Paul: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil 4,13).

And that of so many men and women who in the Gospel and in human history have placed all their confidence in God, have placed their life in the powerful and merciful hands of God, our Father, through Christ, in the Spirit.

Understood in this way, Christian faith is not a conceptual or theoretical act, nor a conceptual or rational recognition. Neither is Christian faith a singular practice, separate, divorced, distant or marginalized from daily life. To the contrary, Christian faith grants to Christian men and women a special way of looking at the daily circumstances in which all human life unfolds.

The distinction and divorce that we have assumed between the religious experience of faith and our daily life produces frequent contradictions such as the following: societies that are largely Christian possess, on the world scene, the highest levels of iniquity, injustice, violence and death… That is to say, societies in which Christian faith is not involved in the daily life of man-in-society, in which religious faith does not illumine the temporal and worldly realities and in which, to the contrary, faith seems to disturb the daily aspirations and conquests of the people.

In order that Christian religious faith might be more reasoned, better celebrated, more frequently shared, more eloquently preached, but above all, more fully lived: Let’s extend a welcome to “the Year of Christian Faith”!

Monday, October 1, 2012

The New Evangelization

It was during his first pastoral trip to Poland that the Blessed John Paul II spoke and exhorted from Nowa Huta concerning the need for a “new evangelization,” thus coining the term with which the venerated Pope sought to provide impulse to the permanent task and challenge for the Church in the world. This renewed challenge to accomplish the missionary task of the church with the eternal content of the Gospel, which is Jesus Christ himself, should become, according to the Pope - “new” in passion, “new” in methods and “new” as well in its expression, in order that Christ and his gospel might impregnate, not merely apply a varnish to the temporal realities, but that Christ and his criteria, principles and the values of the gospel might work their way into the depth of the heart of every person, renewing the life of all people, including the relationships between all men and Christ, so as to become the “light of the world” and the “salt of the earth”. An evangelization that reaches all peoples and impregnates with evangelical values the cultures in all corners of the globe.

The challenge of this “new evangelization” requires the vital and dynamic testimony of every Christian and of the Christian communities with the certainty that the mystery and the ministry of Christ will enlighten and clarify the life of individuals and peoples (GS 22), that in the person of Christ and his gospel they might find a response to the great questions of humanity and the deepest desires of all peoples and of their ever changing history. All of which presupposes that in the life of the church and in the task of evangelism in the world, we might give to Sacred Scripture the centrality it deserves as the source of all that has been revealed in the Word of God, which is Christ himself: the norm of our existence and responsibility as disciples.

In this way, the “new evangelization” and the “Word of God” imply and require that evangelism based on Sacred Scripture will always result in renewal, always fresh, always vital while the “Word of God” makes effective the task of the “new evangelization” today.