Start of Part III “Faith” Encyclical
Hurrah! You are still with me in this blog of reviewing Pope Francis’ first encyclical, Lumen Fidei.
The earlier blogs reviewed the first parts of Lumen Fideo. It covered a summary of the faith of Abraham and the faith of Israel. This time,we move into Christian Faith. This is how Pope Francis is leading the encyclical. We go from the Hebrew Faith revelation to the Christian Faith one of fulfillment.
(I have remarked in an earlier blog how most Catholics know that Pope Benedict was the one who had started on this Light of Faith encyclical, before he was moved by God to step down from the papacy. When Benedict gave in to allow a healthy, new successor to take over—it was to no surprise that new Pope Francis would want to complete this papal encyclical, to bless us in The Year of Faith.)
The turning point in man’s relationship with God came with Abraham and Israel. Faith, as revealed through Abraham and Israel, is not just a belief that God exists. Rather, it is a belief that opens up into a relationship. Abraham and Israel acted within this relationship: Abraham by moving to the land promised him and his descendants and by trusting that God would give him descendants; Israel, by leaving Egypt, following Moses into the desert, and promising to keep God’s law.
What is the faith lesson for both? It is that: Here is a God Who can be trusted, counted on, and to whom we can entrust our whole life.
Christian faith has all of these elements, yet now, we have a definitive fulfillment of faith. The full revelation and the fulfillment of all God’s promises are now present in the person of Jesus Christ. Now, the word of God upon which Abraham and Israel entrusted their lives is the incarnate Word of God. This Word reveals God’s love for us and the Trustworthiness of his promises by Christ’s death on the Cross.
Additionally, the grace of Jesus Christ is the source of our faith, a grace and a faith which even an infant can receive. The sacrifice of Christ is the source of grace for this faith and is also the object of this faith, since the sacrificial death of Christ proves God’s love for us and the trustworthiness of all the promises given to us by Jesus.
Continuing with Pope Francis’ encyclical, we move to the account of salvation by Christian faith. Faith opens us up to the life of God, of the Blessed Trinity. Through faith, God lives in us through Jesus Christ. The law was inadequate to achieve salvation since it did not include this gift of the Divine Life. The law was not able to make us holy as God is Holy. This failure is manifested in two ways: one is openness to a deeper relationship with God, the other is a prideful self-satisfaction with one’s own ability to keep the law. Jesus encountered both. He found openness in His Apostles and Disciples (He found it most profoundly, of course, in His Blessed Mother). He found prideful self-satisfaction in the scribes and Pharisees.
Faith centers our lives on Christ, not on ourselves. While the law turns us to ourselves, Christ turns us to God and neighbor. Jesus is closer to us than we are to ourselves. This expands our lives into an infinite horizon. No longer closed to ourselves, we can see ourselves as God sees us, we can live a life in which Christ lives in us. This is salvation, having Christ live in us that we may live with Him in His love for His Father in the Holy Spirit.
End of Part III