Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Year of Faith-Vatican II 50 years later

On October 11, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI will initiate a "Year of Faith" which will conclude with the feast of Christ the King, Nov., 2013. Why a "year of faith?" First, it is an opportunity for the church to reflect on the gift of the opening of the Second Vatican Council (October 11, 1962). Second, in Pope Benedict's words: "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." The opening statement of Gaudium et Spes (The Church in the Modern World) still speaks to us today, fifty years later. It reads: " The joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the men of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well. Nothing that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men, of men who, united in Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, press onwards towards the kingdom of the Father and are bearers of a message of salvation intended for all men. That is why Christians cherish a feeling of deep solidarity with the human race and its history." Ever wonder why there are so many pronouncements of the church on matters of sexuality, bioethics or even the economy and the environment? It is because these are our concerns they are the concerns of Christ and the church as well. Pope John Paul II was Cardinal Wojtyla at the time of this publication but he was one of the key writers of the document. Solidarity is a word that should jump at us. Remember Lech Walesa and the Solidarity movement in Poland? Solidarity was a spark that lead to recognizing the rights of workers-a recognition that in large part led to the overthrow of the communist government. Jesus Christ is interested in our joys our hopes and our anguish, so is His Church on earth. The introduction reads as follows: " At all times the church carries the responsibility of reading the signs of the time and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel, if it is to carry out its task. In language intelligible to every generation, she should be able to answer the ever recurring questions which men ask about the meaning of this present life and of the life to come, and how one is related to the other. We must be aware of and understand the aspirations, the yearnings, and the often dramatic features of the world in which we live." How do these words speak to us today? Think of the national discussion on healthcare, the concerns raised about religious liberty, the Defense of Marriage Act, the specter of terrorism. These are all social issues experienced by people like you and I every day. Does the Church have the answer? Some say no. They regard the Catholic Church as an obstacle to progress. They also believe the church's teaching on marriage and family are antiquated. Then there are the 8,000 people gathered in Rome who are on fire for the faith and who represent various church movement that are experiencing tremendous growth. What is the source of all conflict in the world? Is it just a question of a political philosophy? Lumen Gentium gives the answer at the end of the introduction. It states: "The dichotomy affecting the modern world is, in fact, a symptom of the deeper dichotomy that is in man himself. He is the meeting point of many conflicting forces. In his condition as a created being he is subject to a thousand shortcomings, but feels untrammeled in his inclinations and destined for a higher form of life. Torn by a welter of anxieties he is compelled to choose between them and repudiate some of them. Worse still, feeble and sinful as he is, he often does the very thing he hates and does not do what he wants. And so he feels himself divided, and the result is a host of discords in social life. Many, it is true, fail to see the dramatic nature of this state of affairs in all its clarity for their vision is in fact blurred by materialism, or they are prevented from even thinking about it by the wretchedness of their plight. Others delude themselves that they have found peace in a worldview now fashionable. There are still others whose hopes are set on a genuine and total emancipation of mankind through human effort alone and look forward to some earthly paradise where are the desires of their hearts will be fulfilled." There we have it. Man is divided. The living God speaks from the cross "I thirst." As Mother Teresa said, it is not a physical thirst, but a thirst for love, a thirst for souls. If "Jesus Christ fully reveals man to himself" how do we look when compared to Him in a mirror? Do we see a loving Savior who speaks to us through creation and through the world, or do we see the Almighty Judge who has come to condemn us? How we answer that question will determine what we see when we look into that mirror. As G K Chesterton once observed, Christianity hasn't been tried and found wanting. Christianity hasn't been tried. Jesus Christ is the answer. The Catholic Church has the answer.

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