This fullness which Jesus brings to faith has another decisive aspect. In faith, Christ is not simply the one in whom we believe, the supreme manifestation of God’s love; he is also the one with whom we are united precisely in order to believe. Faith does not merely gaze at Jesus, but sees things as Jesus himself sees them, with his own eyes: it is a participation in his way of seeing.
In many areas in our lives we trust others who know more than we do. We trust the architect who builds our home, the pharmacist who gives us medicine for healing, the lawyer who defends us in court. We also need someone trustworthy and knowledgeable where God is concerned. Jesus, the Son of God, is the one who makes God known to us (cf. Jn 1:18).
Christ’s life, his way of knowing the Father and living in complete and constant relationship with him, opens up new and inviting vistas for human experience. Saint John brings out the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus for our faith by using various forms of the verb "to believe". In addition to "believing that" what Jesus tells us is true, John also speaks of "believing" Jesus and "believing in" Jesus. We "believe" Jesus when we accept his word, his testimony, because he is truthful. We "believe in" Jesus when we personally welcome him into our lives and journey towards him, clinging to him in love and following in his footsteps along the way.
To enable us to know, accept and follow him, the Son of God took on our flesh. In this way he also saw the Father humanly, within the setting of a journey unfolding in time. Christian faith is faith in the incarnation of the Word and his bodily resurrection; it is faith in a God who is so close to us that he entered our human history. Far from divorcing us from reality, our faith in the Son of God made man in Jesus of Nazareth enables us to grasp reality’s deepest meaning and to see how much God loves this world and is constantly guiding it towards himself. This leads us, as Christians, to live our lives in this world with ever greater commitment and intensity.
Lumen Fidei 18
Reflection – Classic Benedict here, even as we do our ‘Tuesdays with Francis’ reading through the encyclical. Also a bit on the long side, but I couldn’t really cut this fine paragraph down. My comments will be correspondingly short.
Pope Benedict Emeritus points out here, as he often has in his writings, that ‘faith’ is not some weird thing unique to religious people. Everyone engages in an act of faith whenever we trust the knowledge of another person without ourselves verifying the truth of the matter. And life in the world is unlivable without that kind of faith: we cannot fly on an airplane, go to a doctor, learn from a teacher, or eat a meal we did not personally cook without it.
We all know that we cannot personally master every corner of reality and of our own certain knowledge determine the truth of every matter. So we take the knowledge of the experts and go with it, always knowing that they might be fallible, but choosing to live in a species of ‘faith’ in various areas. It is such a commonplace reality that we hardly even think of it—only someone suffering from a paranoid disorder has any difficulty with it.
And yet, when it comes to ultimate truths—God, the human person, the meaning of life, death, the future, good and evil, suffering—there is a long tradition of thought that says ‘faith’ is unacceptable, that only what we ourselves determine to be true by our intellect is worthy of our intellectual assent.
You know, maybe I’m thick as a plank here, but I don’t see any logic in that argument. If I decide for perfectly valid reasons that my family physician is a trustworthy man and so take his advice on this or that course of action, this is fine. But if I decide for perfectly valid reasons that Jesus is Trustworthy in a more ultimate way and that He has communicated Himself to me through His Catholic Church, and consequently base my whole life on that judgment of my intellect, it is not fine, somehow? I don’t see any logical basis for that distinction.
Anyhow, there’s a great deal else going on in this section from the encyclical, and I may come back to it tomorrow, but it is good to consider the reasonableness of faith here—so often we blithely accept the opposition of faith and reason that the modern world throws up at us. Really, they are more in tandem with each other than opposition. Reason indicates to us we should trust the word of another; we accept that word as true (act of faith), and then can use our reason to take deeper hold of why and how this word is a trustworthy one. Reason-faith-reason is a normal pattern, as is the alternate one of faith-reason-faith. And that’s all I have time and space for today. Tomorrow, more on this subject…