FIYH 10-11: Common Faith

The bishops lay out a definition of “commoon faith,” or that grounding we all share as Catholics that can and should be presumed by the local preacher:

[10] To say that a community shares a common faith is to say that its members have a common way of interpreting the world around them. For the Christian community, the world is seen and interpreted as the creation of a loving God. Although this world turned away from God through sin, God reached out again and again to draw the world to himself, finally sending his own Son in human flesh. This Son expressed the fullness of the Father’s love by accepting death on the cross. The Father in turn glorified his Son by raising him from the dead and making him the source of eternal life for all who believe. Believers witness to the presence and word of Jesus in the world and are a continuing sign of the Kingdom of God, which is present both in and through Jesus, and still to come to its fullness through the power of the Holy Spirit.

This articulation is at the core of what it means to be a Christian. It boils down the whole of the Biblical tradition. It describes the essence of the Pashcal Mystery. It should form and inform every preacher’s ministry.

[11] In very broad outline this is the common faith that binds together the Christian community gathering for worship. No individual in the community would very likely express the faith in quite these words. Some might find it difficult to express their faith in any words at all. They do not possess the background of theology to enable them to do so. We might say, therefore, that one of the principal tasks of the preacher is to provide the congregation of the faithful with words to express their faith, and with words to express the human realities to which this faith responds. Through words drawn from the Scriptures, from the church’s theological tradition, and from the personal appropriation of that tradi­tion through study and prayer, the preacher joins himself and the congregation in a common vision. We can say, therefore, that the homily is a unifying moment in the celebration of the liturgy, deepening and giving expression to the unity that is already present through the sacrament of baptism.

This is a key early passage, I think. That believers find it difficult or impossible to express their faith may well be a fault shared by their preachers.

Belief in Christ is not predicated on any ability to articulate the faith. As sacramental Christians, Catholics accept the power of baptism. Being a Christian should inspire a baptized person to grow and develop. But the basic definition of being a Christian does not really include any personal power or expression of theology.

I like that the bishops describe the homily as a moment of unity. Do preachers see themselves speaking their own words? Or just Christ’s words? Or do they see themselves as speakers for the people they serve? That is the basic notion of the priest, after all: bringing the prayers and faith and utterances of the people before God.

(All texts from Fulfilled in Your Hearing are copyright © 1982 USCCB. All rights reserved. Used with permission.)

 

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in Fulfilled in Your Hearing, Liturgy, USCCB documents. Bookmark the permalink.

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