In the popular press, Francis has been dubbed “The Pope of the Poor” and “The People’s Pope,” and both capture something essential. If you want a formula that most clearly expresses the beating heart of Francis’ papacy, however, the best candidate is probably “The Pope of Mercy.”

As usual, John Allen, Jr. has a good perspective on All Things Catholic.  Read the whole post here.

In the popular …

Lumen Fidei Part 4 (Chapter 2)

Picking up with the second section of Chapter 2….

Chapter two of the encyclical is divided into six sections.

  • Faith and Truth (23-25)
  • Knowledge of the truth and love (26-28)
  • Faith as hearing and sight (29-31)
  • The dialogue of faith and reason (32-34)
  • Faith and the search for God (35)
  • Faith and theology (36)

Knowledge of the truth and love (26-28)

Faith and knowledge of the truth are linked through the heart.  “One believes with the heart” (Rom. 10:10).

the heart is the core of the human person, where all his or her different dimensions intersect: body and spirit, interiority and openness to the world and to others, intellect, will and affectivity (26).

It is faith’s connection to love that opens it to truth.

Faith knows because it is tied to love, because love itself brings enlightenment. Faith’s understanding is born when we receive the immense love of God which transforms us inwardly and enables us to see reality with new eyes (26).

This love is more than emotion.  It is a love that “aims at union with the beloved” (27).  Therefore it is a love grounded in truth.  We can only attain union with the beloved when we know the beloved.

Because it is born of love, the knowledge of faith is primarily relational.

It is a relational way of viewing the world, which then becomes a form of shared knowledge, vision through the eyes of another and a shared vision of all that exists (27).

Faith-knowledge is rooted in God’s covenant with his people.  It is born from a trust in God’s fidelity.  God has been faithful in the past.  He will be faithful now and in the future.

Faith-knowledge, because it is born of God’s covenantal love, is knowledge which lights up a path in history… the true God is the God of fidelity who keeps his promises and makes possible, in time, a deeper understanding of his plan (28).

Because, in faith, we are aware of God’s love for us, his plan becomes clearer and clarifies all of history.

Faith-knowledge sheds light [on] …the entire history of the created world, from its origins to its consummation (28).

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Lumen Fidei Part 3 (Chapter 2)

I realize I got a bit too detailed in parts 1 and 2 of this discussion of Lumen fidei.  I’ll keep it shorter and more focused this time….

Chapter two of the encyclical is divided into six sections.

  • Faith and Truth (23-25)
  • Knowledge of the truth and love (26-28)
  • Faith as hearing and sight (29-31)
  • The dialogue of faith and reason (32-34)
  • Faith and the search for God (35)
  • Faith and theology (36)

Faith and Truth

This chapter begins with a discussion of Is 7:9 and the understanding presented there of faith as standing fast.

The prophet [Isaiah] tells him [Ahaz] … to trust completely in the solid and steadfast rock which is the God of Israel (23).

This challenge to trust in God’s plans for His people reveals a connection between faith and truth.  God has the power to

hold together times and ages, and to gather into one the scattered strands of our lives (23).

Recognizing and trusting this power of God (faith)  gives believers a place to stand.   It is certain knowledge (truth) which provides the needed foundation to move forward.  This knowledge is not a mere feeling, nor is it technical know-how, nor is it my own personal truth (as real as that may be).  This knowledge is a profound awareness of the power of God guiding creation to its fulfillment which gives purpose and meaning to everything.

It is a question about the origin of all that is, in whose light we can glimpse the goal and thus the meaning of our common path.

 

Lumen Fidei Part 2

Picking up where part one left off…

Moses appears as an important mediator of faith

With this presence of a mediator in its midst, Israel learns to journey together in unity. The individual’s act of faith finds its place within a community, within the common “we” of the people who, in faith, are like a single person — “my first-born son”, as God would describe all of Israel (cf.   Ex   4: 22). Here mediation is not an obstacle, but an opening: through our encounter with others, our gaze rises to a truth greater than ourselves (LF 14).

As a mediator, Moses provides a focus for faith, uniting the people in a common faith and opening them to new possibilities.

Francis then moves on to discuss the “Fullness of the Christian Faith” which is revealed in Jesus.  While Abraham and others were saved through faith, the fullness of faith is manifested in Jesus which is the

complete manifestation of God’s reliability…   In the love of God revealed in Jesus, faith perceives the foundation on which all reality and its final destiny rest (LF 15).

This foundational reality is love which is expressed most fully in Jesus death for us.

The clearest proof of the reliability of Christ’s love is to be found in his dying for our sake… This love, which did not recoil before death in order to show its depth, is something I can believe in; Christ’s total self-gift overcomes every suspicion and enables me to entrust myself to him completely (LF 16).

This historical, empirical event makes faith tangible.  Christian faith is not faith in the abstract, instead it is faith in the concrete action of God:  past, present, and future.  Distinct from a cultural attitude which has lost its sense of God’s action,

Christians, on the contrary, profess their faith in God’s tangible and powerful love which really does act in history and determines its final destiny: a love that can be encountered, a love fully revealed in Christ’s passion, death and resurrection (LF 17 emphasis added).

Faith, born of the encounter with a loving God changes the way Christians see reality.  They see with the eyes of faith; a faith which sees with the eyes of Jesus.

Faith does not merely gaze at Jesus, but sees things as Jesus himself sees them, with his own eyes: it is a participation in his way of seeing (LF 18).

This has implications for the way Christians live their lives.  When reality is seen through the eyes of faith it calls Christians to engage life at its profoundest level.

Far from divorcing us from reality, our faith in the Son of God made man in Jesus of Nazareth enables us to grasp reality’s deepest meaning and to see how much God loves this world and is constantly guiding it towards himself. This leads us, as Christians, to live our lives in this world with ever greater commitment and intensity (LF 18).

This new way of seeing also reveals the Christian’s (and indeed all creation’s) radical dependance on God’s foundational gift.  Everything is seen in the light of God’s gift.  This is salvation: knowing the gift of God in Jesus.

Salvation by faith means recognizing the primacy of God’s gift. As Saint Paul puts it: “By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph   2: 8) (LF 19)…  Faith’s new way of seeing things is centred on Christ. Faith in Christ brings salvation because in him our lives become radically open to a love that precedes us, a love that transforms us from within, acting in us and through us…  Faith knows that God has drawn close to us, that Christ has been given to us as a great gift which inwardly transforms us, dwells within us and thus bestows on us the light that illumines the origin and the end of life (LF 20).

Faith’s insight transforms the believer.  Everything is made new.  It also joins the believer to the church.

…just as Christ gathers to himself all those who believe and makes them his body, so the Christian comes to see himself as a member of this body, in an essential relationship with all other believers (LF 22)

Summarizing this first chapter the Pope writes,

Faith is not a private matter, a completely individualistic notion or a personal opinion: it comes from hearing, and it is meant to find expression in words and to be proclaimed. For “how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?” (Rom   10: 14). Faith becomes operative in the Christian on the basis of the gift received, the love which attracts our hearts to Christ (cf.   Gal   5: 6), and enables us to become part of the Church’s great pilgrimage through history until the end of the world. For those who have been transformed in this way, a new way of seeing opens up, faith becomes light for their eyes (LF 22).

Lumen Fidei Part 1

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Those who believe, see; they see with a light that illumines their entire journey, for it comes from the risen Christ, the morning star which never sets. (LF 1)

I finished reading Pope Francis’ first encyclical.  First of al, it is clear that Pope Benedict XVI had a strong hand in this encyclical.  It reads a lot like his other encyclicals and completes the series on faith, hope, and love, that Benedict began with Deus Caritas Est.  Francis states 

These considerations on faith — in continuity with all that the Church’s magisterium has pronounced on this theological virtue[ 7]  — are meant to supplement what   Benedict XVI   had written in his encyclical letters on charity and hope. He himself had almost completed a first draft of an encyclical on faith. For this I am deeply grateful to him, and as his brother in Christ I have taken up his fine work and added a few contributions of my own. (LF 7).

Lumen Fidei can, in a certain sense, be read as a completion of this “trilogy” and a final teaching from Benedict XVI.

After a brief introduction highlighting the need for a recovery of faith in the contemporary world, the encyclical is divided into four parts.  The first part “We have believed in love” traces the faith of Israel beginning with Abraham and leading to faith in Christ.  This chapter lays the scriptural and philosophical foundation for the rest of the encyclical.  At its foundation, faith is personal.

Faith is our response to a word which engages us personally, to a “Thou” who calls us by name (LF 8).

Faith is a call and a promise which invites us into a journey into the broader “horizons opened up by God’s Word (LF 9).  There is a respect for the Mystery of God, here.  Faith does not provide easy certainty but it does provide a foundation to build on,

Faith accepts this word as a solid rock upon which we can build, a straight highway on which we can travel… The man of faith gains strength by putting himself in the hands of the God who is faithful (LF 10).

Faith is both surprising and somehow expected.

God’s word, while bringing newness and surprise, is not at all alien to Abraham’s experience (LF 11).

This journey of faith which begins with Abraham is deepened and purified in the history of God’s People, Israel.

Israel trusts in God, who promises to set his people free from their misery…  God’s light shines for Israel through the remembrance of the Lord’s mighty deeds, recalled and celebrated in worship, and passed down from parents to children  (LF 12).

Along this journey, the temptation to unbelief is present.  This temptation manifests itself particularly in the form of idolatry.  Quoting the rabbi of Kock, the Pope explains 

idolatry is “when a face addresses a face which is not a face”.[ 10] (LF 13)

Idols lead to selfishness and confusion.

Idols exist, we begin to see, as a pretext for setting ourselves at the centre of reality and worshiping the work of our own hands. Once man has lost the fundamental orientation which unifies his existence, he breaks down into the multiplicity of his desires; in refusing to await the time of promise, his life-story disintegrates into a myriad of unconnected instants. Idolatry, then, is always polytheism, an aimless passing from one lord to another. Idolatry does not offer a journey but rather a plethora of paths leading nowhere and forming a vast labyrinth. Those who choose not to put their trust in God must hear the din of countless idols crying out: “Put your trust in me!” (LF 13).

Faith, on the other hand

consists in the willingness to let ourselves be constantly transformed and renewed by God’s call. Herein lies the paradox: by constantly turning towards the Lord, we discover a sure path which liberates us from the dissolution imposed upon us by idols (LF 13).