Faith and Reason: Pope's Call 'To Seek God and to Let Oneself Be Found by Him'
Naturally, the humility of reason is always needed, in order to accept it: man's humility, which responds to God's humility
Christians of the nascent Church did not regard their missionary proclamation as propaganda, but as an inner necessity, consequent upon the nature of their faith: the God in whom they believed was the God of all people, the one, true God, who had revealed himself in the history of Israel and ultimately in his Son, thereby supplying the answer for which all people, in their innermost hearts, are waiting.
Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth-in a word, to know himself-so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.
CHESAPEAKE, VA. (Catholic Online) - Yesterday, I covered the launch of Pope benedict XVI's outreach called "The Court of the Gentiles" intended to encourage a dialogue with non-believers. The effort debuted in Paris over the weekend. It already has appointments in Tirana, Albania, Stockholm, Sweden, numerous locations in the United Sates, Canada and Asia. This effort is the inspiration of Pope Benedict XVI, the Missionary Pope, and is being led by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi who heads the Vatican's culture office.
The Fathers of the last great ecumenical Council, the Second Vatican Council, in their decree on Missionary Activity, wrote "The pilgrim Church is missionary by her very nature, since it is from the mission of the Son and the mission of the Holy Spirit that she draws her origin, in accordance with the decree of God the Father". Clearly, Pope Benedict XVI has taken this vision into the very heart of his pontificate. He is the Pope of the new Missionary Age of the Church.
This approach of dialogue, without fear, is rooted in a deep conviction that in every single human heart, in words attributed to Blaise Pascal, there is a "God shaped vacuum". Or, in the words of the great Western Bishop of Hippo, Augustine, taken from his Confession, "You have made us for yourself Oh Lord and our hearts are restless until they rest in you." It is rooted in a deep confidence that faith and reason are never at odds.
Rather, in the words of the late John Paul II in the introduction to an encyclical letter he wrote entitled "Faith and Reason", "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth-in a word, to know himself-so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves." (cf. Ex 33:18; Ps 27:8-9; 63:2-3; Jn 14:8; 1 Jn 3:2).
To understand the love of God, compassion of Christ and confidence in the Holy Spirit which inspires Pope Benedict XVI and informs this latest initiative, it is necessary to consider his thought. Two years after his extraordinary overture at Regensburg where he invited the thinkers of the Muslim world to a dialogue on faith and reason, he gave an adress at the Collège des Bernardins in Paris. The complete text can be read here on the wonderful web site of Mount Angel Abbey, a community of Benedictine Monks founded in 1882 from the Abbey of Engelberg in Switzerland and located in St Benedict, Oregon. Here is an excerpt:
Pope Benedict XVI: To seek God and to let oneself be found by Him
"....The classic formulation of the Christian faith's intrinsic need to make itself communicable to others, is a phrase from the First Letter of Peter, which in medieval theology was regarded as the biblical basis for the work of theologians: "Always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason (the logos) for the hope that you all have" (Logos must become Apo-logia, word must become answer - 3:15).
In fact, Christians of the nascent Church did not regard their missionary proclamation as propaganda, designed to enlarge their particular group, but as an inner necessity, consequent upon the nature of their faith: the God in whom they believed was the God of all people, the one, true God, who had revealed himself in the history of Israel and ultimately in his Son, thereby supplying the answer which was of concern to everyone and for which all people, in their innermost hearts, are waiting.
The universality of God, and of reason open towards him, is what gave them the motivation-indeed, the obligation-to proclaim the message. They saw their faith as belonging, not to cultural custom that differs from one people to another, but to the domain of truth, which concerns all people equally.
The fundamental structure of Christian proclamation "outwards" - towards searching and questioning mankind - is seen in Saint Paul's address at the Areopagus. We should remember that the Areopagus was not a form of academy at which the most illustrious minds would meet for discussion of lofty matters, but a court of justice, which was competent in matters of religion and ought to have opposed the import of foreign religions. This is exactly what Paul is reproached for: "he seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities" (Acts 17:18).
To this, Paul responds: "I have found an altar of yours with this inscription: 'to an unknown god'. What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you" (17:23). Paul is not proclaiming unknown ...
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