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The anthropological newness of Christianity

· Reflections on ‘Ubicumque et Semper’ ·

Today it has become commonplace to speak of an anthropological crisis. On the one hand, in our secularized contexts, there is a relativistic atmosphere of moral confusion that weighs heavily on the upbringing of the young generations. On the other hand, many desires for love and freedom go astray and run aground on the shoals of individualism and hedonism. Our societies generate a mass of solitary individuals who do not dare to make a marital commitment to start a family.

This insecurity of the heart is rooted in a deeper malaise which, in the Motu Proprio Ubicumque et Semper on the new evangelization, Pope Benedict XVI describes as “an interior desert [that] results whenever the human being, wishing to be the sole architect of his nature and destiny, finds himself deprived of that which is the very foundation of all things”. The Holy Father has been repeating this message since the beginning of his Pontificate: “The great problem of the West is forgetting God, a lack of mindfulness that is spreading. Ultimately, every particular problem can be traced back to this question, and of this I am convinced”. The theme of God and the absence of God in the life of human beings was at the heart of his visit to Germany in 2006.

The fundamental challenge of the new evangelization, therefore is that of proclaiming God in a credible and appropriate way. To do this, do we not perhaps have to show a deeper relationship, in the style of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, between the current anthropological crisis and the image of God that Christianity contains?

It is my conviction that the new evangelization must proclaim the anthropological newness of Christianity that emanates from the mystery of the Trinity. The search for happiness that assails the human heart, its affective demands and especially its aspirations for freedom are indeed beyond our grasp without the horizon of a God who is Love and who, for love and through love, has created man in his image and likeness. This anthropological doctrine of Genesis, deepened by Christ in a Trinitarian perspective, contains the key to the human enigma and the hope of the Church in our day, of which the conciliar Constitution, Gaudium et Spes , speaks.

This Trinitarian anthropology has been practically forgotten for centuries. It had a central position for the Fathers of the Church and still had an important role for St Thomas of Aquinas, but in the modern era it has been eclipsed by deism. The latter developed into atheism, leaving people bewildered, adrift in the cosmos, prey to an excessive exaltation of their own autonomy.

Today the secularized western societies are in decline, no longer rooted in the rich humus of their Christian tradition. They will recover their vigour and will once again be fruitful to the extent that individuals, challenged by the proclamation of the Gospel, choose to become people in profound communion with God in Christ. The proclamation of a Trinitarian anthropology could then reawaken hope, exalting the giving of the self to God and others as a road to happiness.

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