Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Faith Is a “Death Event”[1] Involving the Gift of Oneself

 As Revelation is the Gift of a Person as Donation, So Faith is the Gift of a Person as Reception: A Death-Event

[Testimonies of Three Popes]
Faith, As Lived Experience, Saves

“It is urgent to rediscover and to set forth once more the authentic reality of the Christian faith, which is not simply a set of propositions to be accepted with intellectual assent. Rather, faith is a lived knowledge of Christ, a living remembrance of his commandments, and a truth to be lived out. A word, in any event, is not truly received until it passes into action, until it is put into practice. Faith is a decision involving one's whole existence. It is an encounter, a dialogue, a communion of love and of life between the believer and Jesus Christ, the Way, and the Truth, and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6). It entails an act of trusting abandonment to Christ, which enables us to live as he lived (cf. Gal 2:20), in profound love of God and of our brothers and sisters” [Veritatis Splendor #88]

Ss. John XXIII and John Paul II: [Homily by Pope Francis April 27, 2014]

“(O)n the body of the risen Christ, the wounds never pass away: they remain, for those wounds are the enduring sign of God’s love for us.  They are essential for believing in God.  Not for believing that God exists, but for believing that God is love, mercy and faithfulness.” 

“At the heart of this Sunday, which concludes the Octave of Easter and which John Paul II wished to dedicate to Divine Mercy, are the glorious wounds of the risen Jesus.
He had already shown those wounds when he first appeared to the Apostles on the very evening of that day following the Sabbath, the day of the resurrection. But Thomas was not there that evening, and when the others told him that they had seen the Lord, he replied that unless he himself saw and touched those wounds, he would not believe. A week later, Jesus appeared once more to the disciples gathered in the Upper Room, and Thomas was present; Jesus turned to him and told him to touch his wounds. Whereupon that man, so straightforward and accustomed to testing everything personally, knelt before Jesus with the words: "My Lord and my God!" (Jn 20:28).
The wounds of Jesus are a scandal, a stumbling block for faith, yet they are also the test of faith. That is why on the body of the risen Christ the wounds never pass away: they remain, for those wounds are the enduring sign of God’s love for us. They are essential for believing in God. Not for believing that God exists, but for believing that God is love, mercy and faithfulness. Saint Peter, quoting Isaiah, writes to Christians: "by his wounds you have been healed" (1 Pet 2:24, cf. Is 53:5).
Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II were not afraid to look upon the wounds of Jesus, to touch his torn hands and his pierced side. They were not ashamed of the flesh of Christ, they were not scandalized by him, by his cross; they did not despise the flesh of their brother (cf. Is 58:7), because they saw Jesus in every person who suffers and struggles. These were two men of courage, filled with the parrhesia of the Holy Spirit, and they bore witness before the Church and the world to God’s goodness and mercy.
They were priests, bishops and popes of the twentieth century. They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. For them, God was more powerful; faith was more powerful – faith in Jesus Christ the Redeemer of man and the Lord of history; the mercy of God, shown by those five wounds, was more powerful; and more powerful too was the closeness of Mary our Mother.
In these two men, who looked upon the wounds of Christ and bore witness to his mercy, there dwelt a living hope and an indescribable and glorious joy (1 Pet 1:3,8). The hope and the joy which the risen Christ bestows on his disciples, the hope and the joy which nothing and no one can take from them. The hope and joy of Easter, forged in the crucible of self-denial, self-emptying, utter identification with sinners, even to the point of disgust at the bitterness of that chalice. Such were the hope and the joy which these two holy popes had received as a gift from the risen Lord and which they in turn bestowed in abundance upon the People of God, meriting our eternal gratitude.”[2]

Remarks concerning the nature of faith as found in Dei Varbum #5 of Vatican II of John Paul II to Andre Frossard (1981): “According to the teaching of the apostles, faith finds its fullness of life in love. It is in love that the confident surrender to God acquires its proper character and this dimension of reciprocity starts with faith.
                “Thus while the old definition in my catechism spoke principally of the acceptance as truth ‘of all that God has revealed’ [Vatican I], the conciliar text [Vatican II], in speaking of surrender to God, emphasizes rather the personal character of faith. This does not mean that the cognitive aspect is concealed or displaced, but it is, so to speak, organically integrated in the broad context of the subject responding to God by faith….
                “Before I tell you how I am inclined to conceive this commitment, allow me to examine once again the fundamental meaning of this word in the light of the confident surrender to God.
                “I have already drawn your attention to the difference between the catechism formula, ‘accepting as true all that God reveals,’ and surrender to God. In the first definition  faith is primarily intellectual, in so far as it is the welcoming and assimilation of revealed fact. On the other hand, when the constitution Dei verbum tells us that man entrusts himself ato God ‘by the obedience of faith,’ we are confronted with the whole ontological and existential dimension and, so to speak, the drama of existence proper to man.
                “In faith, man discovers the relativity of his being in comparison with an absolute I and the contingent character of his own existence. To believe is to entrust this human I, in all its transcendence and all its transcendent greatness, but also with its limits, its fragility and its mortal condition, to Someone who announces himself as the beginning and the end, transcending all that is created and contingent, but who also reveals himself at the same time as a Person who invites us to companionship, participation and communion. An absolute person - or better, a personal Absolute.
                “The surrender to God through faith (through the obedience of faith) penetrates to the very depths of human existence, to the very heart of personal existence. This is how we should understand this ‘commitment’ which you mentioned in your question and which presents itself as the solution to the very problem of existence or to the personal drama of human existence. IPt is much more than a purely intellectual theism and goes deeper and further than the act of ‘accepting as true what God has revealed.’
                “When God reveals himself and faith accepts him, it is man who sees himself revealed to himself and confirmed in his being as man and person.
                “We know that God reveals himself in Jesus Christ and that at the same time, according to the constitute ion Gaudium et spes [22], Jesus Christ reveals man to man: ‘The mystery of man is truly illumined only in the mystery of the Word incarnate.”
                “Thus these various aspects, these different elements or data of Revelation turn out to be profoundly coherent and acquire their definitive cohesion in man and in his vocation. The essence of faith resides not only in knowledge, but also in the vocation, in the call. For what in the last analysis is this obedience of faith by which man displays ‘a total submission of his intelligence and will to the God who reveals himself’? It is not simply hearing the Word and listening to it (in the sense of obeying it): it also means responding to a call, to a sort of historical and eschatological ‘Follow me!’ uttered both on earth and in heaven.
                “To my mind, one must be very conscious of this relation between knowledge and vocation inherent in the very essence of faith if one is to decipher correctly the extremely rich message of Vatican II. After reflecting on the whole of its content, I have come to the conclusion that, according to Vatican II, to believe is to enter the mission of the Church by agreeing to participate in the triple ministry of Christ as prophet, priest and king. You can see by this how faith, as a commitment, reveals to ur eyes ever new prospects, even with respect to its content. However, I am convinced that at the root of this aspect of faith lies the act of surrender to God, win which gift and commitment meet in an extremely close and profound way;” Be Not  Afraid, St. Martin’s Press (1981)64-67.

Homily of John Paul II For the Inauguration of His Pontificate:  Experiential Faith
"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16:16). These words were spoken by Simon, son of Jonah, in the district of Caesarea Philippi. Yes, he spoke them with his own tongue, with a deeply lived and experienced conviction—but it is not in him that they find their source, their origin: "...because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven" (Mt 16:17). They were the words of Faith.
These words mark the beginning of Peter's mission in the history of salvation, in the history of the People of God. From that moment, from that confession of Faith, the sacred history of salvation and of the People of God was bound to take on a new dimension: to express itself in the historical dimension of the Church.
This ecclesial dimension of the history of the People of God takes its origin, in fact is born, from these words of faith, and is linked to the man who uttered them: "You are Peter—the rock—and on you, as on a rock, I will build my Church."
2. On this day and in this place these same words must again be uttered and listened to:
"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Yes, Brothers and sons and daughters, these words first of all.
Their content reveals to our eyes the mystery of the living God, the mystery to which the Son has brought us close. Nobody, in fact, has brought the living God as close to men and revealed him as he alone did. In our knowledge of God, in our journey towards God, we are totally linked to the power of these words: "He who sees me sees the Father."  He who is infinite, inscrutable, ineffable, has come close to us in Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary in the stable at Bethlehem.
All of you who are still seeking God, all of you who already have the inestimable good fortune to believe, and also you who are tormented by doubt: please listen once again, today in this sacred place, to the words uttered by Simon Peter. In those words is the faith of the Church. In those same words is the new truth, indeed, the ultimate and definitive truth about man: the son of the living God—"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Homily of Benedict XVI of the Beatification of John Paul II:
(…) “’Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe’ (Jn 20:29). In today’s Gospel Jesus proclaims this beatitude: the beatitude of faith. For us, it is particularly striking because we are gathered to celebrate a beatification, but even more so because today the one proclaimed blessed is a Pope, a Successor of Peter, one who was called to confirm his brethren in the faith. John Paul II is blessed because of his faith, a strong, generous and apostolic faith. We think at once of another beatitude: ‘Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven’ (Mt 16:17). What did our heavenly Father reveal to Simon? That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Because of this faith, Simon becomes Peter, the rock on which Jesus can build his Church. The eternal beatitude of John Paul II, which today the Church rejoices to proclaim, is wholly contained in these sayings of Jesus: “Blessed are you, Simon” and “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe!” It is the beatitude of faith, which John Paul II also received as a gift from God the Father for the building up of Christ’s Church.
Our thoughts turn to yet another beatitude, one which appears in the Gospel before all others. It is the beatitude of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer. Mary, who had just conceived Jesus, was told by Saint Elizabeth:’ “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord’ (Lk 1:45). The beatitude of faith has its model in Mary, and all of us rejoice that the beatification of John Paul II takes place on this first day of the month of Mary, beneath the maternal gaze of the one who by her faith sustained the faith of the Apostles and constantly sustains the faith of their successors, especially those called to occupy the Chair of Peter. Mary does not appear in the accounts of Christ’s resurrection, yet hers is, as it were, a continual, hidden presence: she is the Mother to whom Jesus entrusted each of his disciples and the entire community. In particular we can see how Saint John and Saint Luke record the powerful, maternal presence of Mary in the passages preceding those read in today’s Gospel and first reading. In the account of Jesus’ death, Mary appears at the foot of the cross (Jn 19:25), and at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles she is seen in the midst of the disciples gathered in prayer in the Upper Room (Acts 1:14).”

[1] “Conversion in the Pauline sense is something much more radical than, say, the revision of a few opinions and attitudes. It is a death-event. In other words, it is an exchange of the old subject for another. The ‘I’ ceases to be an autonomous subject standing in itself. It is snatched away from itself and fitted into a new subject. The ‘I’ is not simply submerged, but it must really release its grip on itself in order then to receive itself anew in and together with a greater ‘I.’” Joseph Ratzinger, “The Spiritual basis and Ecclesia Identity of Theology” in The Nature and Mission  of Theology, Ignatius (1995) 50-51.
[2] Homily, Pope Francis, Mercy Sunday, April 17, 2014: canonization of St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II:

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