The Light of Faith Shines Out to Transform the World
On a glorious day in the Year of Faith, when Pope Francis approved the causes for canonization of soon-to-be saints John XIII and John Paul II, he also provided us with the wonderful gift of his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei. Only with the light of faith, which is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence, our Holy Father makes clear, can we truly and fully see as we make our way through our journey of life. This faith is not something we create ourselves, as are the many idols of our modern age, he points out, but it is instead “born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives. Transformed by this love, we gain fresh vision, new eyes to see; we realize that it contains a great promise of fulfillment, and that a vision of the future opens up before us” (Lumen Fidei, 4, 13).
Our Holy Father has explained that the encyclical is the “work of four hands.” By this he means his two hands and those of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who entrusted his work on the first draft to his successor in the Petrine ministry. Here we see graphically demonstrated that, while Francis and Benedict are different people, each with his own particular style and manner, Peter remains Peter and the message remains the same.
As Pope Francis explains, what is proclaimed by the Church does not change because the faith is one, just as the Church is one in unity with one Truth and one Love (Lumen Fidei, 47-48). “What is communicated in the Church, what is handed down in her living Tradition, is the new light born of an encounter with the true God, a light which touches us at the core of our being and engages our minds, wills and emotions, opening us to relationships lived in communion” (Lumen Fidei, 40).
In his first encyclical, our Chief Shepherd has given us splendid spiritual guidance and I hope that we all will read and reflect upon this teaching in this summer of the Year of Faith and beyond. With God’s gift of faith, “we realize that a great love has been offered us, a good word has been spoken to us, and that when we welcome that word, Jesus Christ the Word made flesh, the Holy Spirit transforms us, lights up our way to the future and enables us joyfully to advance along that way on wings of hope” (Lumen Fidei, 7).