Today we are living in a society in constant movement, one that has changed radically, even in comparison with the recent past. The processes of secularization and a widespread nihilistic mentality in which all is relative have deeply marked the common mindset. Thus life is often lived frivolously, with no clear ideals or well-founded hopes, and within fluid and temporary social ties. Above all the new generations are not taught the truth nor the profound meaning of existence that surmounts the contingent situation, nor permanent affections and trust. Relativism leads, on the contrary, to having no reference points, suspicion and volubility break up human relations, while life is lived in brief experiments without the assumption of responsibility.
If individualism and relativism seem to dominate the minds of many of our contemporaries, it cannot be said that believers are completely immune to these dangers, with which we are confronted in the transmission of the faith. The investigation promoted on all the continents through the celebration of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, has highlighted some of them: a faith lived passively and privately, the rejection of education in the faith, the gap between life and faith.
Christians often do not even know the central core of their own Catholic faith, the Creed, so that they leave room for a certain syncretism and religious relativism, blurring the truths to believe in as well as the salvific uniqueness of Christianity. The risk of fabricating, as it were, a “do-it-yourself” religion is not so far off today. Instead we must return to God, to the God of Jesus Christ, we must rediscover the Gospel message and make it enter our consciences and our daily life more deeply…
I would like it to be clear that the content or truth of faith (fides quae) bears directly on our life; it asks for a conversion of life that gives life to a new way of believing in God (fides qua). Knowing God, meeting him, deepening our knowledge of the features of his face is vital for our life so that he may enter into the profound dynamics of the human being.
Reflection – This excerpt from the end of the General Audience is so penetrating in its diagnosis of the state of faith and life in the modern world that I had to quote it at length. Pope Benedict certainly knows the state of affairs in
Europe and North American, and of course
the cultural influence of these areas is spread globally through media and
I don’t know that I have much to add to his analysis, except to offer my hearty concurrence to it. We do see quite a few people pass through MH on a yearly basis, and the struggles he details here—the lack of stability and inability to deeply connect with life, faith, relationship, the ‘do-it-yourself’ species of faith, a private passive religion—these are all familiar turf to us. It’s not everyone of course, and there are other common struggles we see here that he doesn’t mention. One that leaps to mind is a reaction into a sort of rigorism or legalism which surely stems from the vague indefinite quality of much catechesis today.
There truly is a need for a deep catechesis and a deep evangelization—not simply an intellectual presentation of data or a list of apologetic talking points, but an invitation into a living encounter with a Person, Jesus Christ. Because Jesus is real, there really is data, facts about Him that do need to be presented—who He is and what He has done and what is this Church He founded and what is its role in our lives.
But it must go deeper than that. He is everything, you know. He is love and light and peace and joy; He is light and water and food and drink. He is healing and salvation and truth. He is heaven. As long as it all stays in our heads as information or in our emotions as nice feelings or in our actions as moral conformity, our faith is very small, very limited.
It is my entire being coming into contact with His entire Being—the Being of God, the gift of absolute love and truth and goodness and beauty plunged into the world in Christ Jesus. It is this, and only this, which resolves all the struggles and impoverishments and profound failures of our world and of the Church in our days.