Pope Francis on the Relationship Between Faith & Reason

On the afternoon of Friday, August 30, our long awaited friends from Uganda arrived. Last Sunday they concelebrated at all of the Masses. This week, as a way of strengthening our connection with St. Anthony’s Parish in Uganda, Fr. Lawrence Kimbowa will be the principal celebrant at all of the Masses and preach the homily. He will be leaving our parish a few days from now, but Fr. Charles Muyimba will remain with us, and we will hear from him on the next two Sundays.

I would like to thank the three members of the Parish Pastoral Council whose terms just ended: Paul Boller, Joanne Rocco-Carter, and Dave Doty. Our new members are Lance Miller, Joseph Towle, and Nancy Stanton. I am grateful to them and to all who expressed their willingness to serve! Our first meeting will be on September 17.

Pope Francis has proclaimed that all Catholics make Saturday, September 7, a “day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East and throughout the world.” He announced a prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square on the 7th. “We will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God’s great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world.” If you are reading this in time, you should take this as a personal invitation to make Saturday a day of voluntary fasting for peace.

You might have read in the Catholic Spirit or in the secular press that Pope Francis has made the appointment most awaited by observers: that of the Vatican Secretary of State. Archbishop Pietro Parolin is the new man in this position; he has been apostolic nuncio to Venezuela since 2009, when he was appointed nuncio and ordained an archbishop by Pope Benedict. He was born in 1955 in Schiavon, Italy, and was ordained a priest in 1980. He has worked in the diplomatic service of the Holy See since 1986.

On June 29 of this year, Pope Francis published his first encyclical letter, Lumen Fidei. Last week I began to summarize most of the first chapter, which centers on the faith of Abraham and ancient Israel, and the transition to Christian faith. As followers of Jesus Christ, we not only believe that what Jesus tells us is true, but we also believe Jesus and believe in Jesus. The remainder of Chapter One speaks about the life of faith. Pope Francis reminds us that St. Paul rejects the idea that we can be justified by the works we do. That would make us the source of our own righteousness, and would lead us away from God, supposedly to “find ourselves.” Instead, salvation by faith means recognizing that God’s gift came first (paragraph 19). When we have faith in Jesus, our lives become open to a love that existed before us. Faith knows that God has given Christ to us as a gift that transforms us, and this enlarges our lives (paragraphs 20-21). Because the Holy Spirit dwells in us we can confess Jesus is Lord. So “the life of the believer becomes an ecclesial existence, a life lived in the Church.” “Faith is not a private matter… It comes from hearing, and it is meant to find expression in words and to be proclaimed” (paragraph 22).

Chapter Two is called “Unless You Believe, You Will Not Understand.” The Pope says that without truth we cannot stand firm. Faith without truth would be just a beautiful story, or a projection of our hope for happiness. Today, many people think that only science discovers what is true. But many of the same people claim there things that are true for an individual but that can’t be proposed to others. Out of fear of the totalitarian truth of the 20th Century that imposed itself on people, instead the world has embraced relativism, “in which the question of universal truth­—and ultimately this means the question of God—is no longer relevant (paragraph 25). Christian faith may provide a service to the common good by helping people understand truth correctly. Faith helps people become open to truth and love, the Pope states (paragraph 26). Love leads someone “away from self-centeredness and towards another person” (paragraph 27), and ancient Israel, by savoring God’s love for his people, came to understand the divine plan. The Pope calls this “faith-knowledge,” and it is a form of hearing and a form of seeing. The disciples followed Jesus after hearing his invitation and after seeing the works he accomplished (paragraphs 29-30).

Turning to the important topic of the dialogue between faith and reason, Pope Francis indicates the importance of the encounter of Christianity with the Greek world of philosophy: that encounter “proved a decisive step in the evangelization of all peoples” because of the interaction between faith and reason (paragraph 32). He refers to how in the experience of St. Augustine reason and faith interacted and allowed him to repent from his sinfulness and embrace the good. Truth should not intimidate people. If it is a truth of love, it is not imposed by force and does not stifle the individual (paragraph 34).

Because human beings are religious, they see signs of God in the natural world. The Magi who were led to Bethlehem by the star were like that, allowing themselves to be led. “Because faith is a way, it also has to do with the lives of those … who, though not believers, nevertheless desire to believe and continue to seek.” Those who set out to do good to others are already drawing near to God (paragraph 35). Pope Francis ends Chapter Two speaking about theology, which is first “the acceptance and the pursuit of a deeper understanding of the word which God speaks to us” (paragraph 36).

To be continued…

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