Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"The New Man We Are Called to Become"

Continuing his reflections on communion, mission, justice, solidarity and the sacraments as a teaser for his delayed social encyclical, the Pope at this morning's General Audience:
The Eucharist has a "personal and social character": "Christ unites himself with me, but also with those beside me, and so unites himself equally with my neighbor"; "we are all one bread, one body."

"And this is communion -- without solidarity with others the Eucharist is abused."...

Human history, in fact, has two "beginnings," the first is "tainted by the abuse of freedom, which intends to emancipate itself from God, but this is not how freedom is found, instead one opposes the truth and then falsifies the fundamental relationships between man and God, man and woman, man and the earth." But there exists "a second beginning of history, in Jesus Christ. With him, the new history is formed not by the pride of a false emancipation, but by love and truth."

Continuing to illustrate the thought of St. Paul, the pope today examined the question of "how we can enter into this new beginning." "We are linked to the first humanity through biological descent," but "how is the new humanity realized, how does Jesus enter my life?"

St. Paul says that this takes place through the Holy Spirit. In the first place, "the Spirit knocks at the door of my heart, but in order that he may truly unite us, in order that he may overcome divisions and gather together those who are different, two elements are necessary, the word and proclamation, and the sacraments." Especially Baptism and the Eucharist. "St. Paul says, how can we call upon Jesus without having heard about him, without anyone to proclaim him, and how will they proclaim if they have not been sent?" Faith "comes from hearing, it is not a product of our mind, it is a product of proclamation, of listening, it is not only an interior journey, but a relationship, it presupposes an encounter between the proclamation and the other, it presupposes the existence of the other who proclaims and creates communion. And the one who proclaims is sent, he is part of a structure of mission that begins with Jesus, sent by the Father, and continues with the apostles and with the Church." "Again there appears the structure of mission in which we ultimately hear God himself speaking."

In the second place is Baptism. Regarding this, the pope highlighted that "in the first place, no one can baptize himself, he needs another, no one can make himself Christian, on his own he is 'passive', only the other can make us Christian. And this other is, in the first instance, the community of believers," the Church, and "without allowing ourselves to be formed by this community, we do not become Christian." "In the second instance, this community itself does not act on its own, according to its own desires, it also lives in a 'passive' way, by Christ."

Baptism "brings death and resurrection. It begins a new life. It is more than a cosmetic operation, it is a new beginning. It is rebirth, death and resurrection." And "obviously, any goodness in the former man also rises again."

As for the Eucharist, "the cup and the bread, are these not communion with the body of Christ?" "We, being many, are one body, we participate in the one bread." This highlights the "personal and social character of the sacrament of the Eucharist." "Christ gives us his body, and in this way he makes us his body. In holy communion, Christ assimilates us to himself, he introduces us into his glorious body, and in this way we all together become one body." It is partly for this reason that the Church, unlike the state, "is not an organization, "a "corporation," but "an organism."

Marriage is also part of the same logic, because this "depicts the love of Christ for his Church," "the relationship between Christ and the Church brings to the forefront the theological aspect of marital love, and it exalts the affective relationship between the spouses. An authentic marriage is lived well if in constant human-affective growth it remains always connected to the efficacy of the Word and to the significance of Baptism. Participation in the body and blood of the Lord," he concluded, "does nothing other than cement a union that has been made indissoluble by grace."
Tonight, B16 returned to the Paul VI Hall for a concert commemorating the 60th anniversary of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The event capped a year of Vatican celebrations of the milestone which culminated last April as Benedict visited the global body's New York headquarters to address the General Assembly and greet its staff.