Sunday, January 13, 2008

Pope Benedict's Letter

I have been reading Pope Benedict's encyclical (letter) Spe Salvi (On Christian Hope) and have been fascinated by his insight and his readability. This is a great letter for everyone to check out. It can be found at: http://www.vatican.va

He warns that it is not good for us to believe that a perfect society will provide hope for man. He describes the real error of Marxism as materialism, stating: "man, in fact, is not merely the product of economic conditions, and it is not possible to redeem him purely from the outside by creating a favourable economic environment."

In other words, our hope comes from God, it is not self-made through our own achievement. Benedict states clearly that "Man can never be redeemed simply from the outside." He criticizes Francis Bacon for believing "that man would be redeemed through science." This is a deceptive hope, Benedict tells us, while acknowledging the contribution of science yet warning about its potential destruction if steered from within.

Love is what redeems man and relationships are our life. We have a relationship with God and man, through "communion with Jesus." If we are self-centered and forget to look outward, we fall into an "individualistic understanding of salvation" according to Benedict, which is in opposition to "communion with Jesus" which has established our relationship with God.

Ultimately, Christianity is about the freedom that comes with the reordering of human affairs according to each new generation. This, Benedict reminds us, cannot be done strictly by creating good structures in our social order.

Ultimately, he tells us that "Anyone who promises the better world that is guaranteed to last for ever is making a false promise; he is overlooking human freedom. Freedom must constantly be won over for the cause of good. Free assent to the good never exists simply by itself." And more importantly, I think, he says that "If there were structures which could irrevocably guarantee a determined--good--state of the world, man's freedom would be denied, and hence they would not be good structures at all."

It is because we have the freedom to make decisions about our human affairs, that we have a responsibility to assent to the good and we must ultimately recognize that the hope we have in accomplishing this comes from God, not ourselves.

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