Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Rough Piece of Fabric

What is life’s meaning? Is there a future for humanity, for us and for the generations to come? In which direction should we orient our free decisions for a good and successful outcome in life? What awaits us beyond the threshold of death?

From these irrepressible questions it becomes clear how the world of planning, of precise calculation and of experimentation, in a word the knowledge of science, although important for human life is not enough on its own. We do not only need bread, we need love, meaning and hope, a sound foundation, a solid terrain that helps us to live with an authentic meaning even in times of crisis, in darkness, in difficulty, and with our daily problems. Faith gives us precisely this: it is a confident entrustment to a “You”, who is God, who gives me a different certitude, but no less solid than that which comes from precise calculation or from science. Faith is not a mere intellectual assent of the human person to specific truths about God; it is an act with which I entrust myself freely to a God who is Father and who loves me; it is adherence to a “You” who gives me hope and trust.

General Audience, 24 October 2012

Reflection – Happy feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe! Our Advent season just keeps lurching from feast to feast, doesn’t it? Hard to have a great penitential spirit when the whole Church keeps breaking out in joyful songs of celebration and general festivity.

Oh well. I don’t know if all my readers are entirely familiar with the story of Juan Diego and the Lady with the roses on Tepeyac hill. It is a beautiful, tender story of a mother, a son, a bishop, and a rough piece of cloth which received a radiantly beautiful image of a woman clothed with the stars and standing upon the moon. The poor, coming to pour out their troubles to this mother; the mother, abiding in her beautiful church in Mexico City, receiving millions of pilgrims each year; the image, still radiantly beautiful on that rough piece of cloth that has no earthly reason to still exist, let alone bear a radiant image of the Mother of God upon its fibers.

Something about the story speaks very deeply to this faith business the Pope is reflecting on these days. We do not need only bread, we need love, hope, meaning. The poor Mexican people in the 16th century were beleaguered, a conquered people, harried and oppressed, lost on the way.

I am sure there was hunger in Mexico—there is always hunger, everywhere. But God knew the deeper hunger in them and in us. He knew they needed a Mama; He gave them one. They needed to know God was with them; He sent them this woman who was one of them, clothed in symbolic garb of a queen, a pregnant mother, and a virgin, her skin and features matching theirs.

And they came to this woman, to this shrine, and to the little man Juan Diego who spent his life telling the story over and again, and they became Catholics by the millions. It is a story unlike any other in the 2000 years of Church history that I am aware of.

Faith—we need to encounter a person, a love, something solid we can build our life on. We all have our beleaguered times; we all get conquered by life, by sin, by our own frailty or by the travails of the world; we all go into darkness, doubt, confusion, sorrow at times.

Human certainties and scientific-technological mastery offer us very little at those times. We have to know that we are held by a deeper wisdom, a stronger love, truth that surpasses our human intellect and its limitations.
At Guadalupe a woman brought this truth and this love to one poor man, and a nation was converted to Christ. Let us abide in our poverty today and ongoing, so that God may find His own way of coming to us ‘over the hills’, so that faith may shine forth from our homes, churches, and the rough fabric of our own hearts, so that our nation, too, might be converted to Christ again.

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