Excerpts from papal encyclical 'Spe Salvi'
VATICAN CITY (CNS) - Here are excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical, "Spe Salvi" (on Christian hope), released Nov. 30:
-- "Spe salvi facti sumus" -- in hope we were saved, says St. Paul to the Romans, and likewise to us (Rom 8:24). According to the Christian faith, "redemption" -- salvation -- is not simply a given. Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present.
Faith is hope:
-- Here too we see as a distinguishing mark of Christians the fact that they have a future: It is not that they know the details of what awaits them, but they know in general terms that their life will not end in emptiness.
-- To come to know God -- the true God -- means to receive hope. We who have always lived with the Christian concept of God and have grown accustomed to it have almost ceased to notice that we possess the hope that ensues from a real encounter with this God.
The transformation of Christian faith-hope in the modern age:
-- It is not that faith is simply denied; rather it is displaced onto another level -- that of purely private and other-worldly affairs -- and at the same time it becomes somehow irrelevant for the world. This programmatic vision has determined the trajectory of modern times, and it also shapes the present-day crisis of faith which is essentially a crisis of Christian hope.
-- Together with the victory of the revolution, though, Marx's fundamental error also became evident. ... He forgot that man always remains man. He forgot man and he forgot man's freedom. He forgot that freedom always remains also freedom for evil.
-- We have all witnessed the way in which progress, in the wrong hands, can become and has indeed become a terrifying progress in evil. If technical progress is not matched by corresponding progress in man's ethical formation, in man's inner growth, then it is not progress at all, but a threat for man and for the world.
-- Yes indeed, reason is God's great gift to man, and the victory of reason over unreason is also a goal of the Christian life. But when does reason truly triumph? When it is detached from God? When it has become blind to God?
The true shape of Christian hope:
-- Science can contribute greatly to making the world and mankind more human. Yet it can also destroy mankind and the world unless it is steered by forces that lie outside it. On the other hand, we must also acknowledge that modern Christianity, faced with the successes of science in progressively structuring the world, has to a large extent restricted its attention to the individual and his salvation. In so doing it has limited the horizon of its hope and has failed to recognize sufficiently the greatness of its task -- even if it has continued to achieve great things in the formation of man and in care for the weak and the suffering.
-- In this sense it is true that anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hopes, is ultimately without hope, without the great hope that sustains the whole of life.
Settings for learning and practicing hope:
-- A first essential setting for learning hope is prayer. When no one listens to me any more, God still listens to me. When I can no longer talk to anyone or call upon anyone, I can always talk to God.
-- We can try to limit suffering, to fight against it, but we cannot eliminate it. It is when we attempt to avoid suffering by withdrawing from anything that might involve hurt, when we try to spare ourselves the effort and pain of pursuing truth, love and goodness, that we drift into a life of emptiness, in which there may be almost no pain, but the dark sensation of meaninglessness and abandonment is all the greater. It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it.
-- A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through compassion is a cruel and inhuman society.
-- God is justice and creates justice. This is our consolation and our hope. And in his justice there is also grace. ... Grace does not cancel out justice. It does not make wrong into right. It is not a sponge which wipes everything away, so that whatever someone has done on earth ends up being of equal value. Dostoevsky, for example, was right to protest against this kind of heaven and this kind of grace in his novel "The Brothers Karamazov." Evildoers, in the end, do not sit at table at the eternal banquet beside their victims without distinction, as though nothing had happened.
-- As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: How can I save myself? We should also ask: What can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them, too, the star of hope may rise? Then I will have done my utmost for my own personal salvation as well.
-- No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse.
Copyright (c) 2007 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
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