In sections 4 through 7, Pope Francis lays out the premise that faith is a light for people to recover. Not a dark curtain drawn down on human enterprise.
A light to be recovered
4. There is an urgent need, then, to see once again that faith is a light, for once the flame of faith dies out, all other lights begin to dim. The light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence. A light this powerful cannot come from ourselves but from a more primordial source: in a word, it must come from God. Faith is 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 fulfilment, and that a vision of the future opens up before us. Faith, received from God as a supernatural gift, becomes a light for our way, guiding our journey through time. On the one hand, it is a light coming from the past, the light of the foundational memory of the life of Jesus which revealed his perfectly trustworthy love, a love capable of triumphing over death. Yet since Christ has risen and draws us beyond death, faith is also a light coming from the future and opening before us vast horizons which guide us beyond our isolated selves towards the breadth of communion. We come to see that faith does not dwell in shadow and gloom; it is a light for our darkness. Dante, in the Divine Comedy, after professing his faith to Saint Peter, describes that light as a “spark, which then becomes a burning flame and like a heavenly star within me glimmers”.[Paradiso XXIV, 145-147. ] It is this light of faith that I would now like to consider, so that it can grow and enlighten the present, becoming a star to brighten the horizon of our journey at a time when (humankind) is particularly in need of light.
If we are made by God, God has also placed the desire and need for him within each of us. How do we respond to need? In many different ways through history. Jesus provides the best answer, “drawings” us beyond our mortal needs and emptiness.
Living without faith will not illumine human existence. Of course, as fallible mortals, we might not get the faith quite right, either. But the offer stands. And many believers, not just saints, have transcended great darkness. This is part of the tradition of the Christian past. More than institutions, I would say. And these words remind us to look forward to a future.