Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Spe Salvi

The Pope has written a new encyclical with the above title on the topic of Christian hope. I sat down and started to read it and made it a while but, much like many of this present Pope's other writings, I find myself pausing often to think about what he is saying fairly often. Here's just one example from paragraph 4...

"We have raised the question: can our encounter with the God who in Christ has shown us his face and opened his heart be for us too not just “informative” but “performative”—that is to say, can it change our lives, so that we know we are redeemed through the hope that it expresses? Before attempting to answer the question, let us return once more to the early Church. It is not difficult to realize that the experience of the African slave-girl Bakhita was also the experience of many in the period of nascent Christianity who were beaten and condemned to slavery. Christianity did not bring a message of social revolution like that of the ill-fated Spartacus, whose struggle led to so much bloodshed. Jesus was not Spartacus, he was not engaged in a fight for political liberation like Barabbas or BarKochba. Jesus, who himself died on the Cross, brought something totally different: an encounter with the Lord of all lords, an encounter with the living God and thus an encounter with a hope stronger than the sufferings of slavery, a hope which therefore transformed life and the world from within."

There are so many things that the Holy Father is saying in this paragraph. The first deals with salvation. As Catholics we don't really have certainty of personal salvation like the evangelicals claim to have. We have "hope" for salvation. The Pope is setting up this encyclical to address what that means.

Also, by using the phrase "political liberation" and not citing the (principally) South American "Liberation Theology" movement, he seems to be addressing the kind of false hope that they put forth. Instead of citing Oscar Romero or one of the Jesuit martyrs, Pope Benedict points to an African slave who was freed by her Christian owners and went on to be a very effective witness to Christian liberation sans Marxism. The reference to Bar Kochba reinforces this. Bar Kochba led the second Jewish revolt by which they were thrown out of the entire country of Israel and their hopes for a renewed Temple were dashed for good. He thought he could, militarilly and politically, bring about a change in status. But he could not. The Pope is asking us to consider that Christ came to liberate us through a holy encounter.

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