· Benedict XVI points out a method for the new evangelization ·
Showing that the happiness the human heart longs for has only one name: “Jesus”. This is the method for the new evangelization which the Pope suggested last 13 June when he inaugurated the Ecclesial Convention of the Diocese of Rome.
For this reason he chose to refer to St Hilary of Poitiers, one of the Church Fathers. Hilary himself testified that he became a believer the moment he understood that for a truly happy life both the possession and the tranquil enjoyment of things were insufficient and that there is something more important and precious: the knowledge of the truth and the fullness of the love given by Christ (cf. De Trinitate 1, 2).
Benedict XVI wondered: “Should we not today too show the beauty and reasonableness of faith, carry God’s light to the people of our time, with courage, with conviction, with joy?” ( L’Osservatore Romano English edition [ ORE ], 22 June 2011, pp. 8-9).
Showing the “reasonableness of faith”; this is one of the recurrent themes in the Magisterium of Joseph Ratzinger who, already in 2003, had noted courageously: “It must even seem a miracle that in spite of all there is still Christian faith”.
At the same time, he realized that faith still has a chance of succeeding in our day and age. How could this be? Because of the profound reasonableness of the Christian truth, in other words because of its correspondence with the human heart: “In man there is an irrepressible longing for the infinite. Not one of the answers that were found suffices. God alone, who made himself finite to break through our finiteness and guide it to the breadth of his infinity, can provide a response to the questions of our being” (Joseph Ratzinger, Fede, verità e tolleranza. Il cristianesimo e le religioni del mondo, Cantagalli, Siena 2003, p. 143).
Demonstrating the truth about faith, and not only of the act of believing, is an art to which we are by and large unaccustomed. A certain apologetic method considers that the reasons for adhering to Christian revelation rely mainly on the topic of the divine authority that it reveals rather than on its response to the reason of the revealed truth.
Thus — due to the excessive emphasis of its supernatural character — there is a tendency to conceive of this truth as lacking in any form of proof in the face of human reason; at least, is this not proof that it should be sought first of all? In this perspective, in fact, all the energies of reason are chanelled into the factual ascertainment of God’s revelation.
No apodictic value was given to arguments deduced from their correspondence to the aspirations of the human heart of the Catholic religion, if not their confirmation.
And so it can happen, the Pope said, addressing the Convention of the Diocese of Rome and citing John Paul II and his insistence on the need for a new evangelization, that many, “although they have heard talk of the faith, no longer appreciate, no longer know the beauty of Christianity; on the contrary, at times they even view it as an obstacle to achieving happiness” ( ORE , 22 June 2011, pp. 8-9).
A split occurs between the Christian truth and the gratification of the heart — as if happiness could lie anywhere else — in something that human beings are able to give of themselves. Hence the idols that have replaced happiness: lust, meanness and power, the new idols that T.S. Eliot speaks of in The Waste Land.
Instead, the itinerary of faith proposed by Benedict XVI is rooted in the most ancient ecclesial tradition. According to the thought of Augustine and of Thomas Aquinas, in fact, man is “made for God” and therefore bears within him this paradoxical historical situation for which he is destined by his nature to achieve an end, eternal life, which he cannot attain by his own efforts but only by virtue of grace (cf. Summa Theologiae, i-ii, 114, 2, ad 1). It is for this reason that the encounter with Christ and the resulting faith, are the beginning of eternal happiness (cf. De Veritate , 1, 14, 2, c).
This explains the heartfelt insistence of the Magisterium of Benedict XVI: “Therefore today I would like to repeat what I said to the young people at the World Youth Day in Cologne: ‘the happiness you are seeking, the happiness you have a right to enjoy has a name and a face: it is that of Jesus of Nazareth, hidden in the Eucharist’!” ( ORE , 22 June 2011, p. 8).
No evangelization, in fact, can be said to have been accomplished other than an evangelization that leads to the recognition of Christ, perceived as the answer to all the questions of our heart and to the most profound needs of our reason.
St. Peter’s Square
Dec. 11, 2019
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