Sunday, March 27, 2016

Faith and Ideology: Francis, John Paul II and Benedict XVI

Francis: Faith and Ideology

John 20, 16: Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means "Teacher").
      Ideology is an abstraction of reality. Abstractions falsify the Gospel. The Gospel is a narrative of the living Christ. Francis: “Ideologues falsify the Gospel. Every ideological interpretation, from whatever side it may come – from one side or the other – is a falsification of the Gospel. And these ideologues – we have seen this in the history of the Church – end up being, they have become intellectuals without talent, ethicists without goodness. And let’s not talk about beauty, because they don’t know a thing about it.” (Francis, April 19, 2013 (no. 19)

       Fr. Anthony Spadaro: “What is the problem with ideology? Faith is a personal encounter; it is not adherence to a program or an idea. Doctrine without trust is hollow. ‘Christians who think of the faith as a system of ideas’ (February 21, 2014, no. 175) instead do not believe in a a personal relationship but in a project, in an abstraction. One cannot truly ‘give’ an idea, as good and beautiful as it may be, one cannot ‘pray an idea. So ‘the ideologue does not know what love is, because he does not know how to give himself.’ (May 14, 2013k no. 38), he does not pray, he remains closed off in his mentality. His knowledge of Jesus turns into an ideological and moralistic knowledge. The faithful or pastor becomes a ‘scholar of the law’ who wants ‘the door locked and the key in his pocket’ (October 17, 2013, no. 113)
      “In the ideologies – the pope said on October 17, 2013 – ‘there is no room for Jesus…: his tenderness, love, meekness. And the ideologies are rigid, always’ in their attempt to homogenize, ‘normalize,’ interpret, and study the evangelical message. ;Paul does not say to the Athenians: ‘This is the encyclopedia of truth. Study this and you will have the truth, the truth!’ No! The truth does not fit in an encyclopedia. Truth is an encounter; it is an encounter with the supreme truth Jesus, the great truth. No one is master of the truth. Truth is received in the encounter (May 8, 2013, no. 34). The truth of faith is only in the personal encounter with Christ, even, at times, in a real ‘hand-to-hand combat’’
        “And ideology kills true prophecy: ‘When there is no prophecy, the accent falls on legalism’ (December 16, 2013, no. 144), on the formal superficial aspects. The fire is missing, while the appearances remain, clericalism and functionalism. While ideology is rigid and closed off in its abstractions, ‘the prophet is aware of the promise and has within his heart the promise of God; he keeps it alive, remembers it, repeats it. Then he looks at the present, looks at his people, and feels the power of the Spirit to speak a word to them that will help them to get  up, to continue their journey toward the future’ (ibid). The prophet, a man of faith, has a dynamic relationship with history.
            “So this is the prayer of Francis: ‘Let’s ask the Lord for the grace of giving all of the wisdom to trust only in him, not in things, in human strength, only in him’ (March 20, 2014, no. 186).”[1]

            John Paul II: Faith and Ideology

          “(T)he Pope returned to the quotation from the Council, ‘These admirably compact and precise words do not yet speak of faith but of Revelation. Revelation is ‘God communicating himself ,’ It thus possesses the character of a gift or a grace: a person-to-person gift, in the communion of persons. A perfectly gratuitous free gift which cannot be explained by anything but love.

            All this concerns Revelation. What about faith?

            We read further on in the same text: ‘To God who reveals himself we must bring the obedience of faith by which man entrusts himself entirely, freely, to God, bringing to him who reveals the complete submission of his intelligence and heart and giving with all his willfull assent to the Revelation which he has made. Thus faith is man’s reply to the Revelation by which God ‘communicates himself.’ The constitution Dei Verbum (#5) expresses perfectly the essentially personal character of faith.

            In the words ‘man entrusts himself to God by the obedience of faith,’ one must see, if only indirectly, the thought that faith, as response to the revelation by which God ‘gives himself to man, ‘implies through  its internal dynamism a reciprocal gift on the part of man, who in a way ‘also gives himself to God.’ This gift of oneself  is the profoundest and most personal structure of faith.

            In the act of faith, man does not respond to God with the gift of a bit of himself, but with the gift of his whole person. Of course, in this reciprocal relationship the disproportion remains.’

            So misapprehension is frequent. Those who say, ‘faith is a gift,’ implying that they have not received it, are at the same time both right and wrong. Right, because there really is a gift on the part of God. Wrong, because his gift is not one of those which require only a banal acknowledgement of receipt; it only takes effect when there is reciprocity….
Thus while the old definition in my catechism principally of the acceptance as truth ‘of all that God has revealed,’ the Conciliar text, 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. …

            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 (#5) tells us that man entrusts himself to 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 with 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, personal Absolute.

            The surrender to God through faith (through the obedience of faith) penetrates to the very depths of human existence, in 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. It 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.”[1]

Benedict XVI

Benedict XVI explains that Revelation only takes place within the human person. Christ Himself is the revelation of the Father. The Father is revealed within man only when man goes out self self to become "another Christ." The act of faith is the act of prayer and love for others, perticuarly, the "least of these." Faith is the going out of self, not an abstraction of concepts. Revelation is the result of that going out. The lights go on only with prayer as in the Transfiguration (Lk. 9, 28).

As Joseph Ratzinger, he wrote: "I had ascertained that in Bonaventure (as well as in theologians of the thirteenth century) there was nothing corresponding to our conception of 'revelation,' by which we are normally in the habit of referring to all the revealed contents of the faith: it has even become a part of linguistic usage to refer to Sacred Scripture simply as 'revelation. Such an identification would have been unthinkable in the language of the High Middle Ages. Here, 'revelation' is always a concept denoting an act. The word refers to the act in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result of this act. And because this is so, the receiving subject is always also a part of the concept of 'revelation.' Where there is no one to perceive 'revelation,' no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removd. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it. These insights, gained through my reading of Bonaventure, were later on very important for me at the time of the conciliar discussion on revelation. Scripture, and tradition. Because, if Bonaventure is right, then revelation precedes Scripture and becomes deposited in Scriptue but is not simply identical with it. This in turn means that revelation is always something greater than what is merely written down. And this again means that there can be no such thing as pure sola scriptura [Protestantism]... because an esential element of Scripture is the Chruch as  understanding subject, and with this the fundamental sense of tradition is already given." [Joseph Ratzinger "Milestones - Memoirs 1927-1977" Ignatius 1998].

[1] "Be Not Afraid," Andre Frossard and Pope John Paul II, St. Martins Press (1984) 64-67. Note: the reason for this is that man becomes (finds) himself by the sincere gift of himself (Gaudium et spes #24). To give himself away, he must own himself. To own himself, he must subdue and master the entire self by the action of free self-determination. [The self can determine the self because the Person of Christ (uncreated) determines His (created) human will, and this because Christ is the "Prototype" of man]. This is revealed in Genesis 1 where God commands man to take possession of the earth by subduing it. Man was taken from the slime of the earth into whom spirit (person) was breathed. Hence, man reveals himself to himself as "I" by the free act of self-determination. This is the anthropology of Judeo-Christian faith.

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