by Heritier , sx
Today, October 11, 2012, as we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the second Vatican Council and the twentieth anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Pope Benedict XVI opens the year of faith. This year of faith will extend from today up to November 24, 2013, which is the solemnity of Christ the King.
On this occasion, the Pope has written an apostolic letter entitled “Porta Fidei” (The door of faith).With this apostolic letter, the Pope points out the necessity to foster in every believer “the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, confidence and hope.”(Porta Fidei, n.9) For this, he expresses the need for Christians to study the documents of Vatican II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church in order to deepen their knowledge of faith and to renew their Christian commitment. This, necessarily, as highlighted by the Pope, implies a public testimony for believers who confess and proclaim faith in the whole world and different fields of society: in the Cathedrals, Churches, homes; and yes, among families, friends and in the work places (Porta Fidei n. 8). Further, as Christians, we have not only to profess our faith, but this, consequently, has to lead us towards being witness of charity. Indeed, faith without charity bears no fruits.
Seemingly, there is no coincidence at all in the fact that the opening of the year of faith occurred on the anniversary of the Vatican II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This might show the strong need to rediscover and to reaffirm our Christian conviction in this world, especially in time of profound change such as humanity is currently experiencing (Porta Fidei n. 8). Hence, the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that the Pope Benedict XVI has convoked for this October has as a theme: “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.” Indeed, this is such an important way of helping Christians of our days, who in their life journey are struggling in their search for God, to find the right path towards, as the Pope would say, the “door of faith.”
This faith, nevertheless, as professed in our liturgical celebrations or as confessed in the very depths of our hearts, has a paradoxical dimension. To believe means here to give assent to God and to his plans even though we do not understand them very well and it also means to hope with a trusting confidence. And, in so many ways, our world gives us a tangible portray of this paradox.
The chapter 20 of the Gospel of John expresses well this paradox of faith. After hearing of the empty tomb of Jesus, Peter and the “other disciple”, whom Jesus loved, went early in the morning to the tomb. Peter went straight and entered the tomb first. The “other disciple”, who had reached the tomb before and was standing in the door, entered after Peter, he saw the empty tomb and believed (John 20: 8). Whereas, in the verse 25, Thomas would say, “unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
On the one hand, it has been generally observed that the Modern and Western world characterized by secularism and rationalism, has been tracing a critical stage to Christian faith. “Our churches and our religious houses are big and empty,” would say the late cardinal Martini in his last interview. Indeed one becomes more aware of this crisis in the conflict and tension between the divine and the secular world. Our contemporaries are thus defined as people stuck by several questions about their faith and in particular way about Christian faith. “Why all these disasters in the world? Why is God so silent? What shall we believe then?” Yet, more than ever, people and especially young people are in search for meaning and depth, in a world that is giving more importance to superficiality and the virtual. Ultimately, those questions and problems are questions and preoccupations of Christians as well, who, in many cases are seriously shaken by doubts in their faith. “What and how to believe?”
Conversely, there is relatively an ever-consistent religious sensitivity in the Eastern and Southern parts of the world. Today, the living faith of Christian communities in Africa, Asia and South America are bearers and witnesses of Christian faith. For some, this religious sensitivity can be seen as devotionalism if not a mere spiritualism due to the ignorance of the people. How shall we bear Christian faith then? or even more, how and what shall be the essence of the renewal of faith expected for us in our particular situation?
The paradox of faith is that it implies the conviction of things not seen; and yet, it admits doubts. More than a clear and unsurpassable division between the two conflicts, this reality is a complex and a concrete problem that touches us in our way of witnessing and living out our Christian faith. Certainly, one shall not be afraid of one’s doubts nor shall one’s doubts be obstruction to the adherence to Christ and to his message of love. Indeed, the questionings and preoccupations of people are to be shared with and in the Christian community that has the task of guiding and journeying with them towards God. Yes, between the two poles of trusting assurance and doubts there is place to hope that leads and shapes our life. Hence, as important instrument of strength and witness to faith, there is to be a place to devotion and fiducial faith. We believe in God and trust even though we do not see because, like “the other disciple”, we know and we have experienced his love in our lives.
“The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life” Yes, in the New Evangelization, as Christians and people of faith, we have the task to help many people in search of God to find right path towards the “door of faith.”(Porta Fidei) Definitely this is the path of miracle because it nourishes both the Thomas and “the other disciple” who cohabit in our heart.