Francis' First Encyclical

Francis' First Encyclical

A look at the main points of Pope Francis' encyclical "Lumen Fidei" ("The Light of Faith"), released July 5.

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Robert Riley
5 years ago
I have not read this encyclical, but am relying upon this video as a basis for my comment. My take on this is both positive and negative. On the positive side, the Pope stresses the importance of living as part of a community, and not as a solitary individual. My opinion is that this can eventually lead to a more just world. On the negative side, the Pope stresses the importance of sacraments and belonging to the "community of faith," by which he seems to mean the Roman Catholic Church. I say "negative" because in my view, Jesus never called us to join "the right club," but instead he taught us to follow his life teaching and example and realize the importance of loving others "with no bounds" (see the New Jerusalem Bible's translation of Mt 5:43-48). I.e, the whole world (including the natural environment) is our community. Jesus' own life revealed his personal growing beyond the idea of calling his own "tribe" (the Jewish community) to a higher vision: connecting with the Romans and the Samaritans (whom the Judeans hated). I think in this regard of seeing membership in the Roman Catholic Church as an object unto itself, Pope Francis lags far behind the thought of Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council, even as I recognize and admire his "big heart."
Christopher Rushlau
5 years ago
Paragraph 13 of the letter, without further comment. 13. The history of Israel also shows us the temptation of unbelief to which the people yielded more than once. Here the opposite of faith is shown to be idolatry. While Moses is speaking to God on Sinai, the people cannot bear the mystery of God’s hiddenness, they cannot endure the time of waiting to see his face. Faith by its very nature demands renouncing the immediate possession which sight would appear to offer; it is an invitation to turn to the source of the light, while respecting the mystery of a countenance which will unveil itself personally in its own good time. Martin Buber once cited a definition of idolatry proposed by the rabbi of Kock: idolatry is "when a face addresses a face which is not a face".[10] In place of faith in God, it seems better to worship an idol, into whose face we can look directly and whose origin we know, because it is the work of our own hands. Before an idol, there is no risk that we will be called to abandon our security, for idols "have mouths, but they cannot speak" (Ps 115:5). Idols exist, we begin to see, as a pretext for setting ourselves at the centre of reality and worshiping the work of our own hands. Once man has lost the fundamental orientation which unifies his existence, he breaks down into the multiplicity of his desires; in refusing to await the time of promise, his life-story disintegrates into a myriad of unconnected instants. Idolatry, then, is always polytheism, an aimless passing from one lord to another. Idolatry does not offer a journey but rather a plethora of paths leading nowhere and forming a vast labyrinth. Those who choose not to put their trust in God must hear the din of countless idols crying out: "Put your trust in me!" Faith, tied as it is to conversion, is the opposite of idolatry; it breaks with idols to turn to the living God in a personal encounter. Believing means entrusting oneself to a merciful love which always accepts and pardons, which sustains and directs our lives, and which shows its power by its ability to make straight the crooked lines of our history. Faith consists in the willingness to let ourselves be constantly transformed and renewed by God’s call. Herein lies the paradox: by constantly turning towards the Lord, we discover a sure path which liberates us from the dissolution imposed upon us by idols.
Thomas Hennigan
5 years ago
In reply to Robert Riley's comment: There is no way of separating Jesus from his Church, being his "body", "bride", "the Israel of God" and other images used by St. Paul and other New Testament writers. Besides, it is only thanks to the Church founded by Jesus that we know anything about him. Even the few references to him in Roman and Jewish sourses such as Tacitus, Josephus or rabbinical sourses are there due to the presence of the Church. I am not claiming that savlation is exclusively to be found within the visible confines of the Caholic Church, but since the New Testamet clearly holds that Jesus Christ is the one Mediator and only saviour, somehow he mysteriously acts in and through his Church.
Robert Riley
5 years ago
To Thomas Hennigan: Your statement about the Roman Church being "the body of Christ" has some merit, in my opinion, along with some limitations. It follows from Roman Church tradition, however, and not directly from the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, truly a remarkable man (like the Buddha, 500 years before him, who also taught using parables, some of which are quite close to those of Jesus - which is also understandable, given that there is a universal spiritual presence within humanity which BOTH the Buddha and Jesus discovered and revealed to the rest of us so that we could in turn "follow them" into awakening and become healers and revealers). Yes, the Roman Church, along with the other old and newer branches of the Christian community, have thankfully passed along the teachings of Jesus. A challenge for any devoted follower of Jesus seeking Love/enlightenment is that of separating the wheat from the chaff in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures (which were certainly NOT written by Jesus), not to mention the subsequent institutional traditions, some of which were positively coming from cultural ignorance of the day. I am not pointing fingers, believe me; who among us can claim to be fully clear of egoism or of ignorance, the ignorance which leads to tribal thinking, homophobia, chauvinism, and a multitude of other attitudes which separates person from person. As one sad example of institutional ignorance in the Roman Church, it was church doctrine UNTIL the Second Vatican Council that "the Jews" were guilty of "deicide" for having been responsible for the death of Jesus, as if "the Jews" were any better or worse than anyone else in this world, and as if the destruction of the body of Jesus destroyed his life.
George Farahat
5 years ago
In my opinion the Catholic Church is larger than the official Catholic Church. This is based on my reading of Dominus Iesus, issued by the CDF and approved by St. Pope John Paul II in 2000 (Cf. numbers 17, 19, and especially 20, 21, 22 in the document). If I am not mistaken, the Catholic Church is the link by which everyone who is on his way to salvation in Christ is saved. If this is true, then the people of good will who strive to live according to the truth of God as presented to them in their conscience are in some hidden way in communion with the Catholic Church. They do not necessarily have to be officially Catholic although being officially Catholic gives them the huge advantage of receiving the sacraments and living in the community of the Tradition in which the Bible is properly interpreted and the Eucharist - Christ himself - is offered for the salvation and eternal life of all humanity.
Robert Riley
5 years ago
Responding to George Farahat: I frankly liked your informative response. Thank you for that. "Salvation" is a HUGE term, with many meanings even within the narrow bounds of the Christian world. I personally think of it as being a word for "enlightenment" - accessing our universal, indwelling Divine potential (..."let the mind of Christ be in you") to outgrow our egocentric mentalities so that, like Jesus and the Buddha, we, too, can play a positive, joyful role in the healing of our world and in our realizing our true individual and collective identities as children/extensions of the Divine. As Jesus put it (more or less), "these things I do shall you do, also, and even more."
Mary Ann Hilgeman
5 years ago
I read the encyclical. I find the visuals in this video problematic. 1. Community of faith is all Mass pictures.... we are a community of faith in many, many ways. 2. Idolatry has ancient pagan symbols, while the encyclical and the text of the presentation are talking about the idolatries of our own desires: greed, violence, consumerism, environmental degradation, racism would have been more appropriate images. 3. Peace had images of military personnel placing flags. That is not an image of peace, and I believe that Pope Francis would strongly oppose the image of armed actors being portrayed as an image of peace. It is helpful to have summaries and introductions to the encyclical, but this one is highly problematic!!
Tim O'Leary
5 years ago
To Robert Riley - this encyclical was about the Christian faith in Jesus as God-man (not like God, or a good man, or a mediator of God, but God incarnate). Anyone who denies Jesus was God will necessarily deny this encyclical. Jesus made claims the Buddha never did. Jesus claimed he was the messiah promised by the prophets, that he alone could bring salvation from sin, that he is the supreme judge of mankind and the only way to the Father, that he is equal to the father and that he pre-existed before the world was made. He even affirmed others who adored him. To me, it is a complete whitewash of Jesus to wipe away his amazing claims. If he made these claims and he was not God and the sole Redeemer of Mankind, then he was not telling the truth. If these multiple scriptural quotes are not the truth, then none of the other parts of the scriptures can be relied upon. To accept Jesus as just some human teacher is to deny Jesus through and through. Here is a sampling of what He said: HE CLAIMED EQUALITY WITH GOD THE FATHER “Before Abraham was, I AM” (Jn 8:58). “I and the Father are One” (Jn 10:30). “You & I are one. You are in Me, Father, and I am in You.”(Jn 17). “Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (Jn 17:5). Only He has seen the Father (Jn 6:46). He has a throne on the Father’s right side in heaven (Mt 25). At His trial (Mt 26:64), He confirmed he was God – “you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Father and coming on the clouds of heaven.” “I am the resurrection & the life. He who believes in me, even though he dies, will have eternal life” (Jn 11:25). “My blood of the covenant, will be poured out for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mt 26:28). He will be the judge on Judgment Day (Mt 16, 25). Whoever rejects Him rejects God (Lk 10). HE CLAIMED TO BE THE SUPREME JUDGE The Father “granted him authority over all people” (Jn 17:2). “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me” (Mt 28:18) “The Father has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son as they honor the Father” (Jn 5:22). “Teach them to obey everything I have told you” (Mt 28:20). “If you love me, you will obey My commandments”(Jn 14:15) "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14.6) “If you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” (Jn 8:24). PRE-EXISTENCE & OTHER SUPERNATURAL CLAIMS The Father “loved me before the creation of the world” (Jn 17). He has come down from heaven (Jn 3, 6, 16). “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Jesus in Luke 10:18). “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. (Jesus in John 6:54-55) AFFIRMED OTHERS WHO DECLARED HIM SON OF GOD Jesus said Peter’s testimony (“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”) was revealed by “My Father in heaven” (Mt 16:16). He responded to Thomas’s testimony (“My Lord and My God”) “blest are those who have not seen but believe” (Jn 20:28). He did not rebuke those who worshipped Him (Mt 14, Jn 9, Mt 28, Lk 24).

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