A final message of love and hopeFATHER RAYMOND J. DE SOUZA
On this feast of Saint Benedict, the sixth-century monk whose spiritual sons saved civilization, it is a small sadness to realize that we may have read the last of the beautiful theology and biblical wisdom of the man who took his name, Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict XVI.
Lumen Fidei can thus be considered a final testament of Benedict XVI. he returns to the questions that have occupied him for more than six decades of scholarship and prayer — is the Christian faith true? What does Jesus Christ bring to us that makes life better, more free, more beautiful? Is it reasonable to believe? If not, what does a world without the transcendent dimension of faith look like? What can man hope for if reliant entirely, as it were, on his own devices?
"The pagan world, which hungered for light, had seen the growth of the cult of the sun god, Sol Invictus, invoked each day at sunrise," Lumen Fidei opens. "yet though the sun was born anew each morning, it was clearly incapable of casting its light on all of human existence. The sun does not illumine all reality; its rays cannot penetrate to the shadow of death, the place where men's eyes are closed to its light. 'No one' — Saint Justin Martyr writes — 'has ever been ready to die for his faith in the sun.'"
That search for the light of understanding continues to our day; the search for causes worth living for, and dying for. Even with the advances in knowledge that marked the Enlightenment, reason alone was insufficient for the great questions of human existence.
"It would become evident that the light of autonomous reason is not enough to illumine the future; ultimately the future remains shadowy and fraught with fear of the unknown," the pope writes. "As a result, humanity renounced the search for a great light, Truth itself, in order to be content with smaller lights which illumine the fleeting moment yet prove incapable of showing the way. yet in the absence of light everything becomes confused; it is impossible to tell good from evil, or the road to our destination from other roads which take us in endless circles, going nowhere."
"Truth nowadays is often reduced to the subjective authenticity of the individual, valid only for the life of the individual," notes Lumen Fidei. "A common truth intimidates us, for we identify it with the intransigent demands of totalitarian systems."
Christian faith, contrariwise, does not come to us as a threat, as Lumen Fidei explains in a passage addressed to a world afraid to believe and of religious believers:
Contemporary man is suspicious of faith, or even any truth at all, for it might be a threat to his own autonomy, his own freedom. A world of suspicion is fundamentally a world of fear. The alternative proposal is a truth that comes to us from an authority that loves us, and that is love itself. That is the Christian good news, that the One who says "I am the truth" is also the "God who is love." That, both Benedict and Francis argue, is the path out of circles of suspicion and fear, toward a future full of hope.
Reprinted with permission of the National Post and Fr. de Souza.
Father Raymond J. de Souza is chaplain to Newman House, the Roman Catholic mission at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Convivium and a Cardus senior fellow, in addition to writing for the National Post and The Catholic Register. Father de Souza's web site is here. Father de Souza is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.
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