Thursday, March 19, 2015

Two Great Popes

On this Feast of St. Joseph, the name day of our dear Pope Benedict and the second anniversary of Pope Francis' inaugural Mass, I was delighted to find this sweet picture of the two popes (click the picture for the related article).

This made me think again about how much I find in continuity between the two popes. (Not the least of which is how difficult/impossible it is to put either of these great men into simple categories that we tend to use in popular media today.) In many ways, I have felt it was Pope Francis who was able to put Pope Benedict's beautiful teachings into action. Here are some examples from Pope Benedict's writings that remind me of Pope Francis:
The first and fundamental mission that we receive from the sacred mysteries we celebrate is that of bearing witness by our lives. The wonder we experience at the gift God has made to us in Christ gives new impulse to our lives and commits us to becoming witnesses of his love. We become witnesses when, through our actions, words and way of being, Another makes himself present. - Sacramentum Caritatis
And yet, from a distance of nearly fifty years, I can once again truly see what was positive there: the candid questions from the perspectives of the liberal-historical method created a new directness in the approach to Sacred Scripture and opened up dimensions of the text that were no longer perceived by the all-too-predetermined dogmatic reading. The Bible spoke to us with new immediacy and freshness. But those things in the liberal method that were arbitrary and tended to flatten out the Bible... could be compensated for by obedience to dogma. A characteristic fruitfulness came from the balance between liberalism and dogma. - Milestones, pg. 52

Do not presuppose the faith but propose it. This was an imperative that hit home. Wide-ranging exploration of new fields was good and necessary, but only so long as it issued from, and was sustained by, the central light of faith. Faith is not maintained automatically. It is not a "finished business" that we can simply take for granted. The life of faith has to be constantly renewed. And since faith is an act that comprehends all the dimensions of our existence, it also requires constantly renewed reflection and witness. - Gospel, Catechesis, Catechism, pg. 24

The more lively the eucharistic faith of the People of God, the deeper is its sharing in ecclesial life in steadfast commitment to the mission entrusted by Christ to his disciples. The Church's very history bears witness to this. Every great reform has in some way been linked to the rediscovery of belief in the Lord's eucharistic presence among his people. - Sacramentum Caritatis, 6

And they believed - and it often seems that today's Christians also think this - that it is permissible to celebrate the Eucharist without looking after the neediness of our brothers,to aspire to better charisms without being aware that each is a member of the other, and so forth. The consequences of a faith that is not manifested in love are disastrous, because it reduces itself to the arbitrariness and subjectivism that is most harmful to us and to our brothers. On the contrary, in following Saint Paul, we should gain a new awareness of the fact that precisely because we are justified in Christ, we no longer belong to ourselves but have become a temple of the Spirit and hence are called to glorify God in our body with the whole of our existence. - St. Paul, pg. 87

This is essential: The Christian ethic is not born from a system of commandments but is a consequence of our friendship with Christ. - St. Paul, pg. 88

A Eucharist without solidarity with others is a Eucharist abused. - St. Paul, pg. 100

For the pagan world that believed in a world filled with spirits for the most part dangerous and from which it was essential to protect oneself, the proclamation that Christ was the only conqueror and that those with Christ need fear no one seemed a true liberation. The same is also true for the paganism of today, since current followers of similar ideologies see the world as full of dangerous powers. It is necessary to proclaim to them that Christ is triumphant, so that those who are with Christ, who stay united to him, have nothing and no one to fear. I think that this is also important for us, that we must learn to face all fears because he is above all forms of domination, he is the true Lord of the world. - St. Paul, pg. 114

Mere intellectual categories prove inadequate here, and, recognizing that many things are beyond our rational capacities, we must entrust them to the humble and joyful contemplation not only of the mind but also of the heart. The Fathers of the Church, moreover, tell us that love understands better than reason alone. - St. Paul, pg. 116
The great task before us is so to fill with living experience the old, truly valid and great sayings that they become intelligible for people. - God and the World
 I've also explained in my Introduction to Christianity that faith never cuts off questions. That it could also become rigid if it no longer exposed itself to these questions. In this sense, these are not fictitious questions but questions that I had to ask myself. But they were, so to speak, given over to the basic confidence of the faith. Not that they were simply explained away by this faith. But they were in a certain sense cushioned by it. - Salt of the Earth, pg. 88
And finally, and possibly my favorite:
To have Christian hope means to know about evil and yet to go to meet the future with confidence. The core of faith rests upon accepting being loved by God, and therefore to believe is to say yes, not only to him, but to creation, to creatures, above all, to men, to try to see the image of God in each person and thereby to become a lover. That's not easy, but the basic yes, the conviction that God has created men, that he stands behind them, that they aren't simply negative, gives love a reference point that enables it to ground hope on the basis of faith. - Salt of the Earth, pgs. 117-118

How are they similar? Well, I hope some of these quotes give at least a vague sense of this - they do to me at least. They are both reminding us in different ways that we need Christ to be who we are meant to be. We need to be constantly re-converted, shaken up if you will, to see clearly the direction we ought to take in the world. They both also bear powerful witness to the way in which we need to engage our modern world, not from a comfortable arm-chair perspective where everything is done the way we want or else. What is required from us is more thoughtful and more radical than that. To be truly open and docile to the Will of God and to the needs of our neighbors. To be fearless in Christ!

The ways of the Lord are not comfortable, but we were not created for comfort. We were created for greatness. - Pope Benedict XVI


Karen Edmisten said...

Beautiful, Alicia, and yes, they are cut from the same cloth. :)

Alicia VH said...

Thanks Karen! :)