by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
WASHINGTON—“Lumen Fidei” (“The Light of Faith”), the first encyclical of Pope Francis, says that faith is like a light illuminating all of human existence.
The encyclical, begun by Pope Benedict XVI, his successor Pope Francis said, was released by the Vatican July 5.
Dated June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, “Lumen Fidei,” considers the role of faith from the days of Abraham until modern times.
“The light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence,” the pope said. “A light this powerful cannot come from ourselves but from a more primordial source: in a word, it must come from God.” Faith heralds the transforming power of belief in Jesus, said Pope Francis. “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,” the pope said.
Pope Francis offered his signature down-to-earth comparison. “We trust the architect who builds our home, the pharmacist who gives us medicine for healing, the lawyer who defends us in court,” he said. “We also need somebody trustworthy and knowledgeable where God is concerned. Jesus, the Son of God, is the one who makes God known to us.”
Pope Francis noted faith’s impact on the family, especially young people.“Faith is no refuge for the fainthearted, but something which enhances our lives,” Pope Francis said. “It makes us aware of a magnificent calling, the vocation of love. It assures us that this love is trustworthy and worth embracing, for it is based on God’s faithfulness which is stronger than our every weakness.”
The pope also pointed out that faith provides perspective in the search for truth, so that believers do not fall prey to great totalitarian movements on one side and relativism on the other. He warned of “a massive amnesia in our contemporary world.”
“The question of truth is really a question of memory, deep memory, for it deals with something prior to ourselves and can succeed in uniting us in a way that transcends our petty and limited individual consciousness. It is a question about the origin of all that is, in whose light we can glimpse the goal and thus the meaning of our common path,” he said.
Pope Francis addressed several contemporary concerns, including the environment and development of people. “Faith,” he said, “by revealing the love of God the Creator, enables us to respect nature all the more, and to discern in it a grammar written by the hand of God and a dwelling place entrusted to our protection and care.
“Faith also helps us to devise models of development which are based not simply on utility and profit, but consider creation as a gift for which we are all indebted; it teaches us to create just forms of government, in the realization that authority comes from God and is meant for the service of the common good.”
He cited faith as a way to unity among peoples. “Faith likewise offers the possibility of forgiveness, which so often demands time and effort, patience and commitment. Forgiveness is possible once we discover that goodness is always prior to and more powerful than evil, and that the word with which God affirms our life is deeper than our every denial. From a purely anthropological standpoint, unity is superior to conflict; rather than avoiding conflict, we need to confront it in an effort to resolve and move beyond it, to make it a link in a chain, as part of a progress toward unity.”
“The Light of Faith” (“Lumen Fidei”) is available from USCCB in print and e-book editions in English and Spanish: www.usccbpublishing.org or at l-800-235-8722.