A Shepherd's Message - Nov. 26, 2013
November 26, 2013
Sunday, Nov. 24, was the Feast of Christ the King, the final Sunday of this Liturgical Year and the conclusion of the Year of Faith which has been celebrated since October of 2012.
Pope Benedict XVI called for such a year to emphasize faith as a doorway, a threshold that leads to communion with God and with the Church. He thought it was important at this moment in the Church, 50 years after the opening of the Second Vatican Council, that each Catholic believer deepen his or her faith. They need to deepen their knowledge, their vision of “seeing” the Lord, and most important of all, their capacity to witness to others.
The Second Vatican Council, in fact, was called to revivify and renew the Catholic Faith so that we would be more persuasive and joyful witnesses to our Crucified and Risen Lord before the world.
The Year of Faith was to hold its own surprises with the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI last February and the election of Pope Francis on March 13.
Since his election, Pope Francis has truly “charmed” the world by his humility, his straightforward speech and his prophetic actions of challenging complacency and being attentive to the “little ones.” In the Holy Father, we have a Year of Faith in personal embodiment.
Pope Francis has already written one encyclical called “Lumen Fidei” (The Light of Faith), a document he himself admits was composed with four hands, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s and his own.
The encyclical pinpoints the way of proceeding in the new evangelization, the spread of the Gospel and friendship with Jesus Christ, by emphasizing personal witness.
This is a combination of re-experiencing for one’s self the credibility and promise of God in faith, a deeper sense of hearing both the Lord and others and a willingness to reach out to others through concrete charity and speaking about one’s own Faith and the Faith of the Church. It is not aggressive proselytizing; it is a humble, yet confident, dialogue and conversation.
One of the beautiful passages in this circular letter is the treatment of St. Augustine.
Pope Francis remarks that the preference of St. Augustine for sight and vision, a combination of experience and philosophy, suddenly encountered the dimension of “hearing” when he came to Christianity.
This is because hearing is involved in the obedience of Faith to God — God who speaks both an inner and outer word to us, and asks for that fundamental trust called Faith. Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit and a challenge.
The excellence of St. Augustine was to allow vision and hearing to meet and be at home; he is a model for us moderns!
The Year of Faith has been a way to allow us all to recognize that the gift of Faith is always an opportunity and a door, even after the Year of Faith ends.
On the Feast of Christ the King this year, the Gospel recorded the extraordinary beauty of the suffering and crucified Jesus stretching out towards the “good” thief who asked to be remembered in the Lord’s Kingdom.
It is a great irony that on Christ the King we viewed Jesus reigning from the Cross! May the ongoing Light of Faith allow us to say over and over again with the good thief: “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your Kingdom.” †