Lumen Fidei 54

Let’s examine with Pope Francis “A light for life in society,” in which the consideration of the family widens to the greater human community:

54. Absorbed and deepened in the family, faith becomes a light capable of illumining all our relationships in society. As an experience of the mercy of God the Father, it sets us on the path of brotherhood. Modernity sought to build a universal brotherhood based on equality, yet we gradually came to realize that this brotherhood, lacking a reference to a common Father as its ultimate foundation, cannot endure. We need to return to the true basis of brotherhood.

It’s been demonstrated again and again through the ages that the attempt to impose a wider community by conquest has ultimately failed. In recent decades the imposition has been less from a conquest of territory (and by extension, people) and more an attempt to dominate by ideology. Movements have failed spectacularly, dragged down by the inevitable corruption of opportunists. The world economy dreamed of by capitalists is not going so well either, propped up often by smoke and mirrors.

Christianity, the Holy Father concedes, doesn’t have a pristine record, but we do, at least in principle, rely on the agency and grace of God.

The history of faith has been from the beginning a history of brotherhood, albeit not without conflict. God calls Abraham to go forth from his land and promises to make of him a great nation, a great people on whom the divine blessing rests (cf. Gen 12:1-3). As salvation history progresses, it becomes evident that God wants to make everyone share as brothers and sisters in that one blessing, which attains its fullness in Jesus, so that all may be one. The boundless love of our Father also comes to us, in Jesus, through our brothers and sisters. Faith teaches us to see that every man and woman represents a blessing for me, that the light of God’s face shines on me through the faces of my brothers and sisters.

The recognition of the dignity of human life has been a Christian project:

How many benefits has the gaze of Christian faith brought to the city of (people) for their common life! Thanks to faith we have come to understand the unique dignity of each person, something which was not clearly seen in antiquity. In the second century the pagan Celsus reproached Christians for an idea that he considered foolishness and delusion: namely, that God created the world for (people), setting human beings at the pinnacle of the entire cosmos. “Why claim that [grass] grows for the benefit of (people), rather than for that of the most savage of the brute beasts?”[Origen, Contra Celsum, IV, 75: SC 136, 372] “If we look down to Earth from the heights of heaven, would there really be any difference between our activities and those of the ants and bees?”[Origen, Contra Celsum, IV, 85: SC 136, 394] At the heart of biblical faith is God’s love, his concrete concern for every person, and his plan of salvation which embraces all of humanity and all creation, culminating in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without insight into these realities, there is no criterion for discerning what makes human life precious and unique. (People lose their) place in the universe, (they are) cast adrift in nature, either renouncing (their) proper moral responsibility or else presuming to be a sort of absolute judge, endowed with an unlimited power to manipulate the world around (them).

Today’s atheist would suggest that human intellect would raise us above animals. Others, including some Christians, would trumpet some divine or Darwinist right of an aristocracy, consigning those not so blessed to a subhuman level.

Pope Francis suggests a middle way between moral abdication and brute domination. My own sense is colored as a man of faith, but I place no hope whatsoever in human systems. I see no light, no hope other than Christ.

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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.
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