Reflection: The Catechism now challenges us to consider what does it mean to have knowledge of God. Our Church has been founded by Jesus and has had the Holy Spirit with her throughout the ages. One of the interesting realizations is
Click to read Catechism: Part 1, Section 1: Chapter 1.2
Catholic Catechism Reflection:
In this section, we touch upon truths but not the kind that we are brought up as in scientific proofs.
(Catholic Catechism Reflection)
Before reading what I write, take time to read the section we will reflect upon: The Desire for God. It is important during our spiritual journey to read the source documents so that one can discern for oneself if we agree with the reflections or statements proposed.
The format I will follow is to put the actual Apostolic Letter on the left with my comments on the right. Highlighted words in have been done by me. Most recent reflections on top.
Let me know if you find this useful.
Apostolic Letter-Paragraph 15:
Share the joy Jesus gained for us!
New life after death!
15. Having reached the end of his life, Saint Paul asks his disciple Timothy to “aim at faith” (2 Tim 2:22) with the same constancy as when he was a boy (cf. 2 Tim 3:15). We hear this invitation directed to each of us, that none of us grow lazy in the faith. It is the lifelong companion that makes it possible to perceive, ever anew, the marvels that God works for us. Intent on gathering the signs of the times in the present of history, faith commits every one of us to become a living sign of the presence of the Risen Lord in the world. What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people enlightened in mind and heart by the word of the Lord, and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for true life, life without end.
“That the word of the Lord may speed on and triumph” (2 Th 3:1): may this Year of Faith make our relationship with Christ the Lord increasingly firm, since only in him is there the certitude for looking to the future and the guarantee of an authentic and lasting love. The words of Saint Peter shed one final ray of light on faith: “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet 1:6-9). The life of Christians knows the experience of joy as well as the experience of suffering. How many of the saints have lived in solitude! How many believers, even in our own day, are tested by God’s silence when they would rather hear his consoling voice! The trials of life, while helping us to understand the mystery of the Cross and to participate in the sufferings of Christ (cf. Col 1:24), are a prelude to the joy and hope to which faith leads: “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10). We believe with firm certitude that the Lord Jesus has conquered evil and death. With this sure confidence we entrust ourselves to him: he, present in our midst, overcomes the power of the evil one (cf. Lk 11:20); and the Church, the visible community of his mercy, abides in him as a sign of definitive reconciliation with the Father.
Let us entrust this time of grace to the Mother of God, proclaimed “blessed because she believed” (Lk 1:45).
Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 11 October in the year 2011, the seventh of my Pontificate.
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI
Paragraph 15 Reflection:
With paragraph 15, we come to the end of Porta Fidei. Appropriate in that today is Holy Saturday.
Pope Benedict XVI, concludes this letter by inviting all believers to realize that faith is a 'lifelong companion', that we must 'marvel that God works for us'.
My husband shared with me something that has affected him and now me; 'realize that God is working in everyone, just as he is working in you'. Isn't that amazing? Such a simple realization but very deep. If you have a loved one who is in trouble and looks like they are going the wrong way, remember 'God is working in his/her life, just as he is working in yours'.
Continuing with paragraph 15; we are called to witness through our own trials; good and bad. We have to be a joyous lot - knowing that eternal salvation awaits us. What good happens on earth is only a foreshadowing of the good in heaven and what bad happens on earth will not exist in heaven.
Our faith is wonderful, called to believe we put our trust in God who sent his only Son Jesus to be our saviour.
Today, Holy Saturday, the world awaits the resurrection when Jesus triumphs over death and shows to believers the glory that awaits us. What marvels the Lord works for us, for humble souls.
As we await Easter, take time today and think about death and resurrection - and ask yourself what does it take to change death into new life?
Apostolic Letter-Paragraph 14:
See the life of faith bloom
14. The Year of Faith will also be a good opportunity to intensify the witness of charity. As Saint Paul reminds us: “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13). With even stronger words – which have always placed Christians under obligation – Saint James said: “What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled’, without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But some one will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith” (Jas 2:14-18).
Faith without charity bears no fruit, while charity without faith would be a sentiment constantly at the mercy of doubt. Faith and charity each require the other, in such a way that each allows the other to set out along its respective path. Indeed, many Christians dedicate their lives with love to those who are lonely, marginalized or excluded, as to those who are the first with a claim on our attention and the most important for us to support, because it is in them that the reflection of Christ’s own face is seen. Through faith, we can recognize the face of the risen Lord in those who ask for our love. “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). These words are a warning that must not be forgotten and a perennial invitation to return the love by which he takes care of us. It is faith that enables us to recognize Christ and it is his love that impels us to assist him whenever he becomes our neighbour along the journey of life. Supported by faith, let us look with hope at our commitment in the world, as we await “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:13; cf. Rev 21:1).
We are coming to the end of our reflection on the Porta Fidei letter by Pope Benedict XVI, emeritus. In paragraph 13, the call to action is brought forth; 'What does it profit...if a man says he has faith but has not works.'
When we receive the grace of faith, our love of God grows. Some would equate it to intensifies. We start pondering about Jesus, what he did during his life on earth and what Jesus asks his believers to do.
Charity is at the forefront. Jesus went to the homeless, the poor, the needy and thus we see our role developing; help those who are need.
Now, we don't have to go across the world to help. We have the needy around us constantly; an elderly family member, a brother or sister in need, a coworker who asks for help, a shop attendant who is having a rough day. Sometimes just a smile and listening ear can do a world of good.
During Holy Week, why not designate one hour to help someone? It is when we give of ourselves that we find the life of faith bloom.
Apostolic Letter-Paragraph 13:
13. One thing that will be of decisive importance in this Year is retracing the history of our faith, marked as it is by the unfathomable mystery of the interweaving of holiness and sin. While the former highlights the great contribution that men and women have made to the growth and development of the community through the witness of their lives, the latter must provoke in each person a sincere and continuing work of conversion in order to experience the mercy of the Father which is held out to everyone.
During this time we will need to keep our gaze fixed upon Jesus Christ, the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:2): in him, all the anguish and all the longing of the human heart finds fulfilment. The joy of love, the answer to the drama of suffering and pain, the power of forgiveness in the face of an offence received and the victory of life over the emptiness of death: all this finds fulfilment in the mystery of his Incarnation, in his becoming man, in his sharing our human weakness so as to transform it by the power of his resurrection. In him who died and rose again for our salvation, the examples of faith that have marked these two thousand years of our salvation history are brought into the fullness of light.
By faith, Mary accepted the Angel’s word and believed the message that she was to become the Mother of God in the obedience of her devotion (cf. Lk 1:38). Visiting Elizabeth, she raised her hymn of praise to the Most High for the marvels he worked in those who trust him (cf. Lk 1:46-55). With joy and trepidation she gave birth to her only son, keeping her virginity intact (cf. Lk 2:6-7). Trusting in Joseph, her husband, she took Jesus to Egypt to save him from Herod’s persecution (cf. Mt 2:13-15). With the same faith, she followed the Lord in his preaching and remained with him all the way to Golgotha (cf. Jn 19:25-27). By faith, Mary tasted the fruits of Jesus’ resurrection, and treasuring every memory in her heart (cf. Lk 2:19, 51), she passed them on to the Twelve assembled with her in the Upper Room to receive the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14; 2:1-4).
By faith, the Apostles left everything to follow their Master (cf. Mk 10:28). They believed the words with which he proclaimed the Kingdom of God present and fulfilled in his person (cf. Lk 11:20). They lived in communion of life with Jesus who instructed them with his teaching, leaving them a new rule of life, by which they would be recognized as his disciples after his death (cf. Jn 13:34-35). By faith, they went out to the whole world, following the command to bring the Gospel to all creation (cf. Mk 16:15) and they fearlessly proclaimed to all the joy of the resurrection, of which they were faithful witnesses.
By faith, the disciples formed the first community, gathered around the teaching of the Apostles, in prayer, in celebration of the Eucharist, holding their possessions in common so as to meet the needs of the brethren (cf. Acts 2:42-47).
By faith, the martyrs gave their lives, bearing witness to the truth of the Gospel that had transformed them and made them capable of attaining to the greatest gift of love: the forgiveness of their persecutors.
By faith, men and women have consecrated their lives to Christ, leaving all things behind so as to live obedience, poverty and chastity with Gospel simplicity, concrete signs of waiting for the Lord who comes without delay. By faith, countless Christians have promoted action for justice so as to put into practice the word of the Lord, who came to proclaim deliverance from oppression and a year of favour for all (cf. Lk 4:18-19).
By faith, across the centuries, men and women of all ages, whose names are written in the Book of Life (cf. Rev 7:9, 13:8), have confessed the beauty of following the Lord Jesus wherever they were called to bear witness to the fact that they were Christian: in the family, in the workplace, in public life, in the exercise of the charisms and ministries to which they were called.
By faith, we too live: by the living recognition of the Lord Jesus, present in our lives and in our history.
Reflection Paragraph 13:
In this paragraph the awareness of what our faith means is brought to the forefront. We must keep "our gaze fixed upon Jesus" he is the "pioneer and perfecter of our faith".
Jesus' Resurrection is the promise given to us of faith. Our life on earth can be very bumpy at times and our hope of eternal life sustains us through these trying times.
During this time of Lent, take time to mediate on how Jesus came into this world and lived amongst us. Think about the daily chores that he must have had, visualize the smells, the sounds and the sights he must have experienced. Sit down next to Jesus and be his companion.
Realize that Jesus had his ups and downs like we do. His hope (though a little different than ours) still looked to the future glory of being with God again.
Teach yourself to trust in Jesus. Believe the message of Truth, Love, and Hope he taught.
Jesus will not let you down.
Apostolic Letter - paragraph 12
Faith and Genuine Science
both tend towards the Truth
12. In this Year, then, the Catechism of the Catholic Church will serve as a tool providing real support for the faith, especially for those concerned with the formation of Christians, so crucial in our cultural context. To this end, I have invited the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, by agreement with the competent Dicasteries of the Holy See, to draw up a Note, providing the Church and individual believers with some guidelines on how to live this Year of Faith in the most effective and appropriate ways, at the service of belief and evangelization.
To a greater extent than in the past, faith is now being subjected to a series of questions arising from a changed mentality which, especially today, limits the field of rational certainties to that of scientific and technological discoveries. Nevertheless, the Church has never been afraid of demonstrating that there cannot be any conflict between faith and genuine science, because both, albeit via different routes, tend towards the truth.
Reflection - paragraph 12
Simple and to the point, Pope Benedict in this paragraph brings out the question faced by every believer, especially during out times, - does science bind the possibilities of reality?
Our faith teaches that God is greater than anything we are capable of perceiving, doing or thinking yet many well known scientists today are forthright in their position that if science cannot explain it then it is not possible.
Sometimes it is difficult to be confident and strong in our faith when we don't know the answers. But remember, our faith is composed of mysteries along side of truths; the incarnation, God made man, Eucharist, Transfiguration to name some.
During this Lent, spend time contemplating the awesome power of God and letting God be God during those moments which we are lost and confused.
signed, not by accident, on the thirtieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, Blessed John Paul II wrote: “this catechism will make a very important contribution to that work of renewing the whole life of the Church ... I declare it to be a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith.” It is in this sense that that the Year of Faith will have to see a concerted effort to rediscover and study the fundamental content of the faith that receives its systematic and organic synthesis in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Here, in fact, we see the wealth of teaching that the Church has received, safeguarded and proposed in her two thousand years of history. From Sacred Scripture to the Fathers of the Church, from theological masters to the saints across the centuries, the Catechism provides a permanent record of the many ways in which the Church has meditated on the faith and made progress in doctrine so as to offer certitude to believers in their lives of faith.
In its very structure, the Catechism of the Catholic Church follows the development of the faith right up to the great themes of daily life. On page after page, we find that what is presented here is no theory, but an encounter with a Person who lives within the Church. The profession of faith is followed by an account of sacramental life, in which Christ is present, operative and continues to build his Church. Without the liturgy and the sacraments, the profession of faith would lack efficacy, because it would lack the grace which supports Christian witness. By the same criterion, the teaching of the Catechism on the moral life acquires its full meaning if placed in relationship with faith, liturgy and prayer.
Reflection to paragraph 11
Parargraph 11 brings our awareness to the Catholic Catechism as a tool and source for our concerted effort to rediscover and study of our faith.
Pope Benedict describes this book beautifully:
'From Sacred Scripture to the Fathers of the Church, from theological masters to the saints across the centuries, the Catechism provides a permanent record of the many ways in which the Church has meditated on the faith and made progress in doctrine so as to offer certitude to believers in their lives of faith.'
I have read the Catechism and it is a wealth of information. It explains so much of our faith and gives us resources should we want to learn more.
During this Lent, why not open up the Catechism and read some of it?
It is divided into four sections (pillars):
1. profession of faith
2. celebration of the sacraments
3. life of faith
4. christian prayer
It's a great book to have because if you are like me, it will become dog eared and marked with statements that strike to your heart.
If you don't have the book, with today's technology, you can gain access to this great document via the Vatican, free: Catholic Catechism.
to entrust ourselves fully to God, in complete freedom. In fact, there exists a profound unity between the act by which we believe and the content to which we give our assent. Saint Paul helps us to enter into this reality when he writes: “Man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved” (Rom 10:10). The heart indicates that the first act by which one comes to faith is God’s gift and the action of grace which acts and transforms the person deep within.
The example of Lydia is particularly eloquent in this regard. Saint Luke recounts that, while he was at Philippi, Paul went on the Sabbath to proclaim the Gospel to some women; among them was Lydia and “the Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14). There is an important meaning contained within this expression. Saint Luke teaches that knowing the content to be believed is not sufficient unless the heart, the authentic sacred space within the person, is opened by grace that allows the eyes to see below the surface and to understand that what has been proclaimed is the word of God.
Confessing with the lips indicates in turn that faith implies public testimony and commitment. A Christian may never think of belief as a private act. Faith is choosing to stand with the Lord so as to live with him. This “standing with him” points towards an understanding of the reasons for believing. Faith, precisely because it is a free act, also demands social responsibility for what one believes. The Church on the day of Pentecost demonstrates with utter clarity this public dimension of believing and proclaiming one’s faith fearlessly to every person. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit that makes us fit for mission and strengthens our witness, making it frank and courageous.
Profession of faith is an act both personal and communitarian. It is the Church that is the primary subject of faith. In the faith of the Christian community, each individual receives baptism, an effective sign of entry into the people of believers in order to obtain salvation. As we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “ ‘I believe’ is the faith of the Church professed personally by each believer, principally during baptism. ‘We believe’ is the faith of the Church confessed by the bishops assembled in council or more generally by the liturgical assembly of believers. ‘I believe’ is also the Church, our mother, responding to God by faith as she teaches us to say both ‘I believe’ and ‘we believe’.”
Evidently, knowledge of the content of faith is essential for giving one’s own assent, that is to say for adhering fully with intellect and will to what the Church proposes. Knowledge of faith opens a door into the fullness of the saving mystery revealed by God. The giving of assent implies that, when we believe, we freely accept the whole mystery of faith, because the guarantor of its truth is God who reveals himself and allows us to know his mystery of love.
On the other hand, we must not forget that in our cultural context, very many people, while not claiming to have the gift of faith, are nevertheless sincerely searching for the ultimate meaning and definitive truth of their lives and of the world. This search is an authentic “preamble” to the faith, because it guides people onto the path that leads to the mystery of God. Human reason, in fact, bears within itself a demand for “what is perennially valid and lasting”. This demand constitutes a permanent summons, indelibly written into the human heart, to set out to find the One whom we would not be seeking had he not already set out to meet us. To this encounter, faith invites us and it opens us in fullness.
Reflection - paragraph 10
Very inspirational paragraph; Pope Benedict brings to mind that what we believe and our actions are one.
"knowing the content to be believed is not sufficient unless the heart, the authentic sacred space within the person, is opened by grace that allows the eyes to see below the surface and to understand that what has been proclaimed is the word of God."
Faith "demands social responsibility for what one believes." This means that how we vote, how we buy, where we go, etc. all need to be aligned with what we profess as being our faith. It isn't easy.
Large chain stores offer items for prices that don't make sense. If we think about it, people are being exploited for these items and yet, do we buy the item?
Our faith is not for the weak of heart. With the Grace of God, there is an innate desire deep within each of us to know God.
Faith invites us and it opens us in fullness.
During your Lenten Observance, take time to reflect upon your faith and your life and identify areas that need to be aligned so that the two can be in unity.
more conscious and vigorous adherence to the Gospel, especially at a time of profound change such as humanity is currently experiencing. We will have the opportunity to profess our faith in the Risen Lord in our cathedrals and in the churches of the whole world; in our homes and among our families, so that everyone may feel a strong need to know better and to transmit to future generations the faith of all times. Religious communities as well as parish communities, and all ecclesial bodies old and new, are to find a way, during this Year, to make a public profession of the Credo.
9. We want this Year to arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope. It will also be a good opportunity to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist, which is “the summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed; ... and also the source from which all its power flows.” At the same time, we make it our prayer that believers’ witness of life may grow in credibility. To rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived and prayed, and to reflect on the act of faith, is a task that every believer must make his own, especially in the course of this Year.
Not without reason, Christians in the early centuries were required to learn the creed from memory. It served them as a daily prayer not to forget the commitment they had undertaken in baptism. With words rich in meaning, Saint Augustine speaks of this in a homily on the redditio symboli, the handing over of the creed: “the symbol of the holy mystery that you have all received together and that today you have recited one by one, are the words on which the faith of Mother Church is firmly built above the stable foundation that is Christ the Lord. You have received it and recited it, but in your minds and hearts you must keep it ever present, you must repeat it in your beds, recall it in the public squares and not forget it during meals: even when your body is asleep, you must watch over it with your hearts.”
Reflection - paragraph 8 & 9
Paragraph 8 brings to the forefront the need to keep vigilant in our faith. We must spend time reflecting on what "being saved" means to us as well as sharing it with those we meet.
I hear many people say that they believe but in their work they have to put their beliefs aside. Actions like that are totally alien to our faith.
Our faith compels us to action, just check out the letter of St James.
Every society in all ages is unique but our society today has something which no prior society prior to the 20th Century had to deal with; electricity and computers. These two inventions have enabled such change in our lives that it will take generations in the future looking back to be able to describe what we are having to cope with.
Pope Benedict compels us make time in our busy schedule to grow our faith. Not just in the intellectual sense but in the active sense. Share with your family and friends your faith, when looking at the news ask the questions that usually is not asked "Is that in line with our faith? What is wrong? What is missing?"
It is only when we share our own questions with others that we can see that God's loving presence makes everyone aware of what is right and good. Remember, that Truth doesn't change no matter how many people in the world try to tell you that truth is relative.
Church, entrusting her with the proclamation of the Gospel by a mandate that is ever new. Today too, there is a need for stronger ecclesial commitment to new evangelization in order to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith. In rediscovering his love day by day, the missionary commitment of believers attains force and vigour that can never fade away. Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy. It makes us fruitful, because it expands our hearts in hope and enables us to bear life-giving witness: indeed, it opens the hearts and minds of those who listen to respond to the Lord’s invitation to adhere to his word and become his disciples. Believers, so Saint Augustine tells us, “strengthen themselves by believing”. The saintly Bishop of Hippo had good reason to express himself in this way. As we know, his life was a continual search for the beauty of the faith until such time as his heart would find rest in God. His extensive writings, in which he explains the importance of believing and the truth of the faith, continue even now to form a heritage of incomparable riches, and they still help many people in search of God to find the right path towards the “door of faith”. Only through believing, then, does faith grow and become stronger; there is no other possibility for possessing certitude with regard to one’s life apart from self-abandonment, in a continuous crescendo, into the hands of a love that seems to grow constantly because it has its origin in God.
Reflection on paragraph 7
To convoke means to call together. Jesus calls together the Church every generation. We are not left alone with our faith.
"Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy." Our faith requires that we practice what we believe. In the end, our faith is not a matter of continually studying to try and grasp deeper interpretations of Bible versus but by living the Gospel message we receive. It isn't easy but thankfully we can pray to the Holy Spirit to guide us in our daily tasks.
I was talking with a monk this evening and we both agreed that our hope of the future joy enables us to endure any difficulties in the present 'now'. This is very similar to what Pope Benedict is says ... faith 'expands our hearts in hope and enables us to bear life-giving witness'.
If you can, take a few minutes and ponder on the depth of what this statement means.
'Only through believing, then, does faith grow and become stronger'
We must want to believe in order for our faith to grow. Jesus does not allow us to stand in the middle ground. We have to choose.
In this Year of Faith, choose to deepen your faith both in knowledge as well as in action.
and undefiled’ (Heb 7:26) knew nothing of sin (cf. 2 Cor 5:21), but came only to expiate the sins of the people (cf. Heb 2:17)... the Church ... clasping sinners to its bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal. The Church, ‘like a stranger in a foreign land, presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God’, announcing the cross and death of the Lord until he comes (cf. 1 Cor 11:26). But by the power of the risen Lord it is given strength to overcome, in patience and in love, its sorrow and its difficulties, both those that are from within and those that are from without, so that it may reveal in the world, faithfully, although with shadows, the mystery of its Lord until, in the end, it shall be manifested in full light.” The Year of Faith, from this perspective, is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Saviour of the world. In the mystery of his death and resurrection, God has revealed in its fullness the Love that saves and calls us to conversion of life through the forgiveness of sins (cf. Acts 5:31). For Saint Paul, this Love ushers us into a new life: “We were buried ... with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4). Through faith, this new life shapes the whole of human existence according to the radical new reality of the resurrection. To the extent that he freely cooperates, man’s thoughts and affections, mentality and conduct are slowly purified and transformed, on a journey that is never completely finished in this life. “Faith working through love” (Gal 5:6) becomes a new criterion of understanding and action that changes the whole of man’s life (cf. Rom 12:2; Col 3:9-10; Eph 4:20-29; 2 Cor 5:17).
Reflection (paragraph 6)
'Witnesses offered by our lives'. Sometimes it isn't what we say but what we do that speaks volumes.
Pope Benedict makes it plain that we must persevere through trials. 'Once holy and always in need of purification'. This phrase applies to the Church but also to everyone of us individually. We don't become 'born again' and then sit back and let God do all the work. Alas, concupiscence (that which makes us stray from what is good, e.g., lust, greed, envy, wrong desires, etc.) stays with us until we meet God, i.e., we die.
Our faith is founded on something radical which was never thought of and never has been 'topped'. Not only did God come down to be one of us but he showed us what awaits us; the resurrection.
We need to keep this in mind to help us moderate our actions to be those founded in Love. Not the love of the carnal world but the Love which is of God; to want the good of the other for the other's sake. We are pilgrims on a journey. Isn't this wonderful?
God values our identity and awaits our response to the call; the call of Love. The last portion of paragraph 6 is all encompassing; we have to willingly alter our thoughts, our ideas, our actions, basically all our being and allow the Holy Spirit to slowly purify and transform our lives.
Have you ever wondered why God is always depicted as being good? Why wasn't he bad? I did and my husband came up with a powerful reply - God is good because only good can build and create. Evil is selfish, destroys rather than builds.
Why not take 10 minutes off your busy schedule and ponder upon our faith. We when we are built on love become 'a new criterion of understanding and action that changes the whole of man’s life. (cf. Rom 12:2; Col 3:9-10; Eph 4:20-29; 2 Cor 5:17)
Reflection (paragraph 5)
True faith and correct interpretation is a challenge for every generation. Our faith is built upon the understanding and knowledge handed down by our past, e.g., fathers, grandparents, priests.
During this Year of Faith, Pope Benedict is trying to entice the faithful to read for the first time or reread Church documents, e.g., Vatican II.
One of the beauties of our faith is that Catholic documents are reviewed and scrutinized significantly prior to publication to ensure that what is written is in conjunction with Catholic Tradition.
There are many that have written which are not in the spirit of Christ. By looking at our Tradition and reflecting upon what we are reading, we can use our reason and judge the soundness of what we read.
I heard a monk once say, "if you ever have an idea that is contrary to the teaching of the Church, then change your mind".
Our faith is vital for our survival, take time during this Year of Faith to read, join events which will help nourish and guide your faith. Remember, we are all on a journey to eternity.
Paragraph 4 Reflection;
In this paragraph, Pope Benedict provides us the background and boundaries of the Year of Faith. The paragraph is filled with historical facts, but this is because our Pope respects our reasoning.
The Pope is a man who believes in reason guiding our will and encourages the faithful to realize 'the power and beauty of the faith.'
When we come to realize this fact, our faith becomes alive within us and touches every aspect of our life.
During the Year of faith, take 'time of particular reflection and rediscovery of the faith.' Make time and deepen your understanding of what the Catholic faith has been built upon and always guided by the Holy Spirit.
It isn't easy, it isn't for the light hearted but the results will awaken within you a love of God and spill over to a love of yourself and a love of your neighbours.
Our faith ... 'it really is God's message and not some human thinking; and it is still a living power among you who believe it.' 1Thes 2:13
Paragraph 3 Reflection;
Paragraph 3 hits upon a very basic core of our belief. There is an inherent need within ourselves to feed our soul. All the troubles and anguishes of the world and even the momentary bliss and happiness we experience amounts to nothing.
Pope Benedict states it well "the need to rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves on the word of God".
How about making a pack with yourself to spend 30 minutes a day on learning about your faith. There are many venues you can take from reading scripture, to praying the Psalms or even saying part or all of the Divine Office; Universalis.com on their left menu has a link to morning prayers, evening prayers and night prayers.
We must strive to deepen our faith to believe that Jesus is our Lord and Saviour...this can only happen if we ask the Holy Spirit to enter our hearts and guide us.
Paragraph 2 Reflection;
Do you have doubt on what you believe? You are not alone. Pope Benedict makes it known that a crisis of faith is real and facing many people.
During this Year of Faith, Pope Benedict encourages us to rediscover the journey of faith. Notice that it is a journey, it isn't a stagnant belief.
Our faith needs to bring joy and enthusiasm in our life when we encounter Jesus.
How is this journey of faith encountered?
Prayer, study and charity are three great starts.
Take the challenge of the Year of Faith to deepen your understanding of your faith. There are many books you can use; Bible, Catholic Catechism, Lives of the Saints. Join study groups and ask the Holy Spirit to help your unbelief.
Pope Benedict XVI
Wednesday, General Audience, November 21, 2012
Paul VI Audience Hall
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Let us proceed in this Year of Faith bearing in our hearts the hope of finding all the joy there is in believing and of rediscovering the enthusiasm of communicating the truths of the faith to all. These truths are not a simple message about God, a particular piece of information on him. On the contrary they express the event of God’s encounter with human beings, a salvific and liberating encounter which fulfils the deepest aspirations of the human heart, the yearning for peace, brotherhood and love. Faith leads to the discovery that the meeting with God enhances, perfects and exalts all that is true, good and beautiful that exists in man. So it happens that while God reveals himself and lets himself be known, man comes to realize who God is and in knowing him, discovers himself, his true origin, his destiny, the greatness and dignity of human life.
Faith makes possible authentic knowledge about God which involves the whole human person: it is a “sapere”, that is, a knowledge which gives life a savour, a new taste, a joyful way of being in the world. Faith is expressed in the gift of self for others, in brotherhood which creates solidarity, the ability to love, overcoming the loneliness that brings sadness. Thus this knowledge of God through faith is not only intellectual but also vital. It is the knowledge of God-Love, thanks to his own love. The love of God, moreover, makes us see, opens our eyes, enables us to know the whole of reality, in addition to the narrow views of individualism and subjectivism that confuse consciences. Knowledge of God is therefore an experience of faith and at the same time entails an intellectual and moral development; moved in our depths by the Spirit of Jesus within us, we go beyond the horizons of our own selfishness and open ourselves to the true values of existence.
Today, in this catechesis, I would like to reflect on the reasonableness of faith in God. The Catholic Tradition, from the outset, rejected the so-called “fideism”, which is the desire to believe against reason. Credo quia absurdum (I believe because it is absurd) is not a formula that interprets the Catholic faith. Indeed God is not absurd, if anything he is a mystery. The mystery, in its turn, is not irrational but is a superabundance of sense, of meaning, of truth. If, looking at the mystery, reason sees darkness, it is not because there is no light in the mystery, but rather because there is too much of it. Just as when humans raise their eyes to look at the sun, they are blinded; but who would say that the sun is not bright or, indeed, the fount of light? Faith permits us to look at the “sun”, God, because it is the acceptance of his revelation in history and, so to speak, the true reception of God’s mystery, recognizing the great miracle. God came close to man, he offered himself so that man might know him, stooping to the creatural limitations of human reason (cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution, Dei Verbum, n. 13). At the same time, God, with his grace, illuminates reason, unfolds new horizons before it, boundless and infinite. For this reason faith is an incentive to seek always, never to stop and never to be content in the inexhaustible search for truth and reality. The prejudice of certain modern thinkers, who hold that human reason would be as it were blocked by the dogmas of faith, is false.
Exactly the opposite is true, as the great teachers of the Catholic Tradition have shown. St Augustine, before his conversion sought the Truth with great restlessness through all the philosophies he had at his disposal, finding them all unsatisfactory. His demanding, rational search, was a meaningful pedagogy for him for the encounter with the Truth of Christ. When he says: “I believe, in order to understand, and I understand the better to believe” (Discourse 43, 9: PL 38, 258), it is as if he were recounting his own life experience. Intellect and faith are not foreign or antagonistic to the divine Revelation but are both conditions for understanding its meaning, for receiving its authentic message, for approaching the threshold of the mystery. St Augustine, together with so many other Christian authors, is a witness of a faith that is practised with reason, that thinks and invites thought. On this same track St Anselm was to say in his Proslogion that the Catholic faith is a fides quaerens intellectum, where the quest for understanding is an act inherent to believing. It was to be St Thomas Aquinas in particular — strong in this tradition — who challenged the reason of the philosophers, showing how much new and fertile rational vitality comes from human thought grafted on to the principles and truths of the Christian faith.
The Catholic faith is therefore reasonable and fosters trust in human reason as well. The First Vatican Council, in the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius, said that reason is able to know with certainty that God exists through the Creation, whereas the possibility of knowing “easily, with complete certainty and without error” (DS 3005) the truths that concern God in the light of grace, belongs to faith alone. The knowledge of faith, moreover, is not in opposition to right reason. Blessed Pope John Paul II, in fact, in his Encyclical Fides et Ratio, sums it up in these words: “human reason is neither annulled nor debased in assenting to the contents of faith, which are in any case attained by way of free and informed choice” (n. 43).
In the irresistible desire for truth, only a harmonious relationship between faith and reason is the right road that leads to God and to the person’s complete fulfilment. This doctrine is easily recognizable throughout the New Testament. St Paul, in writing to the Christians of Corinth, maintains, as we have heard: “Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Cor 1:22-23). God in fact did not save the world with an act of power, but through the humiliation of his Only-Begotten Son. Measured in human parameters, the unusual ways of God clash with the demands of Greek wisdom. And yet, the Cross of Christ has a reason of its own which St Paul calls: ho logos tou staurou “the word of the cross” (1 Cor 1:18). Here the term logos means both the word and reason and, if it alludes to the word, it is because it expresses verbally what reason works out.
Hence Paul does not see the Cross as an irrational event, but as a saving factor that possesses its own reasonableness, recognizable in the light of faith. At the same time he has such trust in human reason, that he is surprised that many people, in spite of seeing the works brought about by God, persist in refusing to believe in him. In his Letter to the Romans St Paul says: “ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (1:20).
St Peter likewise also urges the Christians of the diaspora to worship: “in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pt 3:15). In an atmosphere of persecution and with a pressing need to bear witness to faith, we believers are asked to justify with well-grounded reasons their adherence to the word of the Gospel, to account for the reason for our hope.
The virtual relationship between science and faith is also founded on these premises concerning the fertile connection between understanding and believing. Scientific research leads to the knowledge of ever new truths about man and about the cosmos, as we see it. The true good of humanity, accessible in faith, unfolds the horizons within which the process of its discovery must move. Consequently research, for example, at the service of life and which aims to eliminate disease, should be encouraged. Also important are investigations that aim to discover the secrets of our planet and of the universe, in the awareness that the human being is not in charge of creation to exploit it foolishly but to preserve it and make it inhabitable. Thus faith, lived truly, does not come into conflict with science but, rather, cooperates with it, offering the basic criteria to promote the good of all and asking it to give up only those endeavours which — in opposition to God’s original plan — produce effects that are detrimental to the human being. For this reason too it is reasonable to believe: if science is a precious ally of faith for understanding God’s plan for the universe, faith, remaining faithful to this very plan, permits scientific progress always to be achieved for the good and truth of man.
This is why it is crucial for human beings to be open to faith and to know God and his plan of salvation in Jesus Christ. In the Gospel a new humanism is inaugurated, an authentic “grammar” of the human being and of the whole of reality. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “God's truth is his wisdom, which commands the whole created order and governs the world. God, who alone ‘made heaven and earth’ (Ps 115:15), can alone impart true knowledge of every created thing in relation to himself” (n. 216).
Let us trust, therefore, that our commitment to evangelization may help to restore a new centrality to the Gospel in the life of untold men and women of our time. And let us pray that all may rediscover in Christ the meaning of existence and the foundation of true freedom: without God, in fact, men and women lose themselves. The testimonies of those who have preceded us and dedicated their lives to the Gospel confirm this for ever. It is reasonable to believe, and the whole of our existence is at stake. It is worth expending oneself for Christ, he alone satisfies the desires for truth and goodness that are rooted in every human being’s soul: now, in time that passes, and in the never ending day of blessed Eternity.
Read the Pope's talk he gave during his General Audience in Saint Peter's Square, Wednesday, November 7th 2012. It is a very inspiring talk that applies to believers as well as unbelievers.
Saint Peter's Square Wednesday, 7 November 2012
The Year of Faith. The desire for God.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The journey of reflection that we are making together during this Year of Faith leads us to meditate today on a fascinating aspect of the human and the Christian experience: man carries within himself a mysterious desire for God. In a very significant way, the Catechism of the Catholic Church opens precisely with the following consideration: “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for” (n. 27).
A statement like this, that even today in many cultural contexts seems quite acceptable, even obvious, might, however, be taken as a provocation in the West’s secularized culture. Many of our contemporaries might actually object that they have no such desire for God. For large sectors of society he is no longer the one longed for or desired but rather a reality that leaves them indifferent, one on which there is no need even to comment. In reality, what we have defined as “the desire for God” has not entirely disappeared and it still appears today, in many ways, in the heart of man. Human desire always tends to certain concrete goods, often anything but spiritual, and yet it has to face the question of what is truly “the” good, and thus is confronted with something other than itself, something man cannot build but he is called to recognize. What can really satisfy man’s desire?
In my first Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, I sought to analyze how such dynamism can be found in the experience of human love, an experience that in our age is more easily perceived as a moment of ecstasy, of leaving oneself, like a place in which man feels overcome by a desire that surpasses him. Through love, a man and a woman experience in a new way, thanks to each other, the greatness and beauty of life and of what is real. If what is experienced is not a mere illusion, if I truly want the good of the other as a means for my own good, then I must be willing not to be self-centred, to place myself at the other’s service, even to the point of self-denial. The answer to the question on the meaning of the experience of love then passes through the purification and healing of the will, required in loving the other. We must cultivate, encourage, and also correct ourselves, so that this good can truly be loved.
Thus the initial ecstasy becomes a pilgrimage, “an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God” (Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, n. 6). Through this journey one will be able to deepen gradually one’s knowledge of that love, initially experienced. And the mystery that it represents will become more and more defined: in fact, not even the beloved is capable of satisfying the desire that dwells in the human heart. In fact, the more authentic one’s love for the other is, the more it reveals the question of its origin and its destiny, of the possibility that it may endure for ever. Therefore, the human experience of love has in itself a dynamism that refers beyond the self, it is the experience of a good that leads to being drawn out and finding oneself before the mystery that encompasses the whole of existence.
One could make similar observation about other human experiences as well, such as friendship, encountering beauty, loving knowledge: every good experienced by man projects him toward the mystery that surrounds the human being; every desire that springs up in the human heart echoes a fundamental desire that is never fully satisfied. Undoubtedly by such a deep desire, hidden, even enigmatic, one cannot arrive directly at faith. Men and women, after all, know well what does not satisfy them, but they cannot imagine or define what the happiness they long for in their hearts would be like. One cannot know God based on human desire alone. From this point of view he remains a mystery: man is the seeker of the Absolute, seeking with small and hesitant steps. And yet, already the experience of desire, of a “restless heart” as St Augustine called it, is very meaningful. It tells us that man is, deep down, a religious being (cf. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 28), a “beggar of God”. We can say with the words of Pascal: “Man infinitely surpasses man” (Pensées, ed. Chevalier 438; ed. Brunschvicg 434). Eyes recognize things when they are illuminated. From this comes a desire to know the light itself, what makes the things of the world shine and with them ignites the sense of beauty.
We must therefore maintain that it is possible also in this age, seemingly so blocked to the transcendent dimension, to begin a journey toward the true religious meaning of life, that shows how the gift of faith is not senseless, is not irrational. It would be very useful, to that end, to foster a kind of pedagogy of desire, both for the journey of one who does not yet believe and for the one who has already received the gift of faith. It should be a pedagogy that covers at least two aspects. In the first place, to discover or rediscover the taste of the authentic joy of life. Not all satisfactions have the same effect on us: some leave a positive after-taste, able to calm the soul and make us more active and generous. Others, however, after the initial delight, seem to disappoint the expectations that they had awakened and sometimes leave behind them a sense of bitterness, dissatisfaction or emptiness. Instilling in someone from a young age the taste for true joy, in every area of life – family, friendship, solidarity with those who suffer, self-renunciation for the sake of the other, love of knowledge, art, the beauty of nature — all this means exercising the inner taste and producing antibodies that can fight the trivialization and the dulling widespread today. Adults too need to rediscover this joy, to desire authenticity, to purify themselves of the mediocrity that might infest them. It will then become easier to drop or reject everything that although attractive proves to be, in fact, insipid, a source of indifference and not of freedom. And this will bring out that desire for God of which we are speaking.
A second aspect that goes hand in hand with the preceding one is never to be content with what you have achieved. It is precisely the truest joy that unleashes in us the healthy restlessness that leads us to be more demanding — to want a higher good, a deeper good — and at the same time to perceive ever more clearly that no finite thing can fill our heart. In this way we will learn to strive, unarmed, for the good that we cannot build or attain by our own power; and we will learn to not be discouraged by the difficulty or the obstacles that come from our sin.
In this regard, we must not forget that the dynamism of desire is always open to redemption. Even when it strays from the path, when it follows artificial paradises and seems to lose the capacity of yearning for the true good. Even in the abyss of sin, that ember is never fully extinguished in man. It allows him to recognize the true good, to savour it, and thus to start out again on a path of ascent; God, by the gift of his grace, never denies man his help. We all, moreover, need to set out on the path of purification and healing of desire. We are pilgrims, heading for the heavenly homeland, toward that full and eternal good that nothing will be able to take away from us. This is not, then, about suffocating the longing that dwells in the heart of man, but about freeing it, so that it can reach its true height. When in desire one opens the window to God, this is already a sign of the presence of faith in the soul, faith that is a grace of God. St Augustine always says: “so God, by deferring our hope, stretched our desire; by the desiring, stretches the mind; by stretching, makes it more capacious” (Commentary on the First Letter of John, 4,6: PL 35, 2009).
On this pilgrimage, let us feel like brothers and sisters of all men, travelling companions even of those who do not believe, of those who are seeking, of those who are sincerely wondering about the dynamism of their own aspiration for the true and the good. Let us pray, in this Year of Faith, that God may show his face to all those who seek him with a sincere heart. Thank you.