Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
December 8, 2008
Revitalization of Church provides hope for the life of the world
The Edmonton Archdiocese this week launches its five-year process of evangelization, Nothing More Beautiful. The title for the process was taken from Pope Benedict's homily at his inaugural Mass – "There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ."
Beauty is not a normal term for viewing the Catholic faith. Too often, faith has been seen through the lens of laws and obligations. This lens is an outsider's view of the faith.
No one who has been gripped by a personal relationship with Jesus would see obligation as central to the faith just as no one in love with their spouse would see that relationship as mainly one of fulfilling contractual obligations.
Or, one might view the life of faith as belonging to a club of like-minded people. Gathering for some religious rituals and then enjoying coffee and cookies together afterwards can help to meet our social needs. The Church can be a club for those who have an interest in the Catholic religion. To be sure, this is a most superficial approach to faith.
Even if one gets beyond legalistic and social views of religion, there may still be a tendency to see faith in terms of the intellect. Faith contains Scriptures to be read and studied, a catechism to be learned and prayers to be memorized and recited.
As important as the intellect is to a full faith, it still doesn't get you there. What really needs to be engaged is the heart.
To speak of faith as beauty is to speak of its pull on the human heart. To speak of being "surprised by the Gospel" is to hint at an amazement that can totally re-orient one's life.
A few years before Pope Benedict's election, a leading U.S. Catholic thinker, David Schindler, also spoke of the beauty of the faith: "The Christian's fundamental purpose, in all aspects of his or her ‘worldly' existence, is to assist in manifesting the beauty, truth and goodness of being."
This concern for beauty is not mainly about the Church's inner life – having beautiful liturgy and beautiful art – but is about the transformation of the world. It is about consummating the marriage between earth and heaven. It is about the transformation of the dreary, the mundane and the bleak. It is about breathing new life into the lives of the forgotten, the poor and the sick.
To say there is nothing more beautiful than the life of faith is to offer brilliant hope. It is to offer colour and contrast where there are now only grey monotones. It is to say that God is not distant and dispassionate. It is to live as though God is more vivid, more present and more loving that anyone we have ever known or could hope to know.
Nothing More Beautiful is an exciting prospect. It promises not only the revitalization of the Church, but also a fuller life for the world.
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