by Helen Hull Hitchcock
Our Joy, Our Hope
O come, all ye faithful! The joyous Christmas hymn is truly a call for all Christians to action to recognize the “Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing”, to receive this Word of Truth, our Savior and Lord, and to rejoice in hope of the coming of His Kingdom.
This year, on the day before the beginning of Advent, Pope Benedict XVI gave the world a great gift the good news of the Hope on which our faith depends. The title of his second encyclical, Spe Salvi (or “On Christian Hope”), is from Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans:
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we know not how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. (Romans 8:22-26)
This work of Pope Benedict could not be more timely or more profound. In this issue of Voices you will find the complete text of Spe Salvi. And we hope you will read it with the care it deserves perhaps, appropriately, in the days surrounding Epiphany the Church’s observance of Jesus, the Light of the World, becoming manifest.
We are only too aware of the darkness in our world wars and poverty and disease and disasters natural and man-made threaten human life and cause great suffering; but perhaps more insidious is the pervasive moral decay in our culture that undermines the family, imperils the lives of the most vulnerable especially unborn children and those afflicted with disease and who are dying. Open attacks on religion especially Christianity (a recent example is the anti-Catholic movie The Golden Compass) are often less destructive than the damage from within. Our political system seems to invite radical distancing by politicians and voters from essential moral beliefs. (We will be seeing a lot of this during the coming election year.)
In all the eons of human history, we seem to have learned nothing about how to overcome our own darkness and evil.
Is our worldly darkness impenetrable? No. Can human efforts alone overcome it? No, again. But we do have the duty to work to bring the light and truth of God’s love into the world. Is there hope for the future? Yes because we have a Savior who overcomes our darkness.
Our Lord referred to Himself as the Light of the World twice, as John’s Gospel tells us. First, after the Pharisees were about to stone a woman caught in adultery, and challenged Jesus.
“I am the light of the world”, Jesus said, “he who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life”. (John 8:12).
The second occasion was when the Lord cured a man of physical blindness. Jesus said that the man was not born blind because of sin, but “that the works of God might be made manifest in him”. Then Jesus spoke directly about our responsibility:
“We must work the works of Him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:3-5).
We must all work faithfully while it is day while we are in this world and by the Light of the world to bring this Hope of salvation through faith in Christ Jesus to everyone.
As we go to press, a “Doctrinal Note on Evangelization” has just been released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The statement, begun while Pope Benedict was prefect of that Congregation, confronts the challenge that the Church should not be “evangelizing”; and it reaffirms that evangelization is the duty of the Church and that every Catholic is obliged to take up our share of the responsibility, for it is precisely the truth of the Gospel that is the source of genuine freedom and our only grounds for hope.
Gaudium et Spes Joy and Hope is the title of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. Key to the message of Gaudium et Spes is that “love impels the followers of Christ to proclaim to all the truth which saves”. This truth God’s saving love is what overcomes our darkness and grief and anguish with light and joy and hope.
Venite adoremus Dominum!
O Come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!
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