Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Synopsis of the Holy Father's Catechesis for November 7

     This third installment of Pope Benedict’s catechesis during the Holy Year of Faith discusses something about which you have heard me preach on over and over again.  It is an issue that strikes at the very heart of the most fundamental difficulties we experience even amongst Catholics in this modern world.  That about which I am speaking is the fundamental question of whether faith is personal or communal.  In fact, Pope Benedict began his catechesis with that very question, “Is the nature of faith merely personal and individual?  Do I live my faith alone?”
     The answer is so beautiful that I must simply quote our Holy Father.  He says, “[C]ertainly, the act of faith is an eminently personal act.  It is something which happens in the most intimate depths of my being and causes a change of direction, a personal conversion. …But the fact that I believe is not the result of solitary reflection, it is the fruit of a relationship, a dialogue with Jesus which causes me to emerge from my ‘I’ and to open myself to the love of God the Father.”
     So, he begins by recognizing that even in entering into a relationship with God we are entering into a relationship with a community of persons – the Blessed Trinity.  But this is only the beginning.  He goes on to say that, “[I]t is like a rebirth in which I discover that I am united not only to Jesus but also to all those who have walked and continue to walk along His path.  And this new birth, which begins with Baptism, continues throughout the course of a person’s life.”
     Pope Benedict goes on to point out that our faith does not come to us in a private dialogue with Jesus “because faith is given to me by God through a believing community which is the Church.  And faith makes me part of a multitude of believers bound by a communion which is not merely sociological, but rooted in the eternal love of God.”  So, this is not just a “me and the bible” proposition!
     I often point out to people in the midst of evangelization and catechesis that we find in the Acts of the Apostles (2:42) that the people of the early Christian community are described as “being devoted to the teaching of the apostles.”  Why, I then ask, are they not devoted to the teaching of Christ?  Well, of course, they are but THROUGH the apostles.  Our faith is something that is passed on as part of a very personal relationship – one person to another.  And yet, that one person through whom the faith is passed on stands in relationship, and catechizes on behalf of, the whole Body of Christ, the whole Christian community.
     Our Holy Father then ties this in with that about which he has spoken about over the last two weeks when he teaches that “[E]ver since the beginning, then, the Church has been the place of faith, the place where faith is transmitted.  The life of the Church, the announcement of the Word of God and the celebration of the Sacraments form an unbroken chain which has come down to us and which we call Tradition.  This gives us the guarantee that what we believe is Christ’s original message, as preached by the Apostles.  It is in the ecclesial community that personal faith grows and matures.”
     He concludes by saying that “[T]he tendency, so widespread today, to relegate the faith to the private sphere contradicts its very nature.  We need the Church in order for our faith to be confirmed and to experience the gifts of God together.  In a world in which individualism seems to regulate dealings between people, making them ever more fragile, the faith calls us to be People of God, to be Church, bearers of love and communion of God for the entire human race.”
Pray well, and remember who you are!

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