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Placuit Deo - Printable Version

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Placuit Deo - Poche - 03-05-2018

I. Introduction

1. “In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (cf. Eph 1:9) by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature (cf. Eph 2:18; 2 Pt 1:4). The deepest truth about God and the salvation of man shines out for our sake in Christ, who is both the mediator and the fullness of all revelation”.[1] The teaching on salvation in Christ must always be deepened. Holding fast to the gaze of the Lord Jesus, the Church turns toward all persons with a maternal love, to announce to them the plan of the Covenant of the Father, mediated by the Holy Spirit, “to sum up all things in Christ, the one head” (Eph 1:10). The present Letter is intended, in light of the greater tradition of the faith and with particular reference to the teachings of Pope Francis, to demonstrate certain aspects of Christian salvation that can be difficult to understand today because of recent cultural changes.

RE: Placuit Deo - Poche - 03-08-2018

II. The effect of current cultural changes on the meaning of Christian salvation

2. The contemporary world perceives not without difficulty the confession of the Christian faith, which proclaims Jesus as the only Savior of the whole human person and of all humanity (cf. Acts 4:12; Rom 3:23-24; 1 Tm 2:4-5; Tit 2:11-15).[2] On one hand, individualism centered on the autonomous subject tends to see the human person as a being whose sole fulfilment depends only on his or her own strength.[3] In this vision, the figure of Christ appears as a model that inspires generous actions with his words and his gestures, rather than as He who transforms the human condition by incorporating us into a new existence, reconciling us with the Father and dwelling among us in the Spirit (cf. 2 Cor 5:19; Eph 2:18). On the other hand, a merely interior vision of salvation is becoming common, a vision which, marked by a strong personal conviction or feeling of being united to God, does not take into account the need to accept, heal and renew our relationships with others and with the created world. In this perspective, it becomes difficult to understand the meaning of the Incarnation of the Word, by which He was made a member of the human family, assuming our flesh and our history, for us and for our salvation.

RE: Placuit Deo - Poche - 03-09-2018

3. Pope Francis, in his ordinary magisterium, often has made reference to the two tendencies described above, that resemble certain aspects of two ancient heresies, Pelagianism and Gnosticism.[4] A new form of Pelagianism is spreading in our days, one in which the individual, understood to be radically autonomous, presumes to save oneself, without recognizing that, at the deepest level of being, he or she derives from God and from others. According to this way of thinking, salvation depends on the strength of the individual or on purely human structures, which are incapable of welcoming the newness of the Spirit of God.[5]On the other hand, a new form of Gnosticism puts forward a model of salvation that is merely interior, closed off in its own subjectivism.[6] In this model, salvation consists of improving oneself, of being “intellectually capable of rising above the flesh of Jesus towards the mysteries of the unknown divinity.” [7] It presumes to liberate the human person from the body and from the material universe, in which traces of the provident hand of the Creator are no longer found, but only a reality deprived of meaning, foreign to the fundamental identity of the person, and easily manipulated by the interests of man.[8] Clearly, the comparison with the Pelagian and Gnostic heresies intends only to recall general common features, without entering into judgments on the exact nature of the ancient errors. There is a great difference between modern, secularized society and the social context of early Christianity, in which these two heresies were born.[9] However, insofar as Gnosticism and Pelagianism represent perennial dangers for misunderstanding Biblical faith, it is possible to find similarities between the ancient heresies and the modern tendencies just described.

RE: Placuit Deo - Poche - 03-11-2018

4. Both neo-Pelagian individualism and the neo-Gnostic disregard of the body deface the confession of faith in Christ, the one, universal Savior. How would Christ be able to mediate the Covenant of the entire human family, if human persons were isolated individuals, who fulfil themselves by their own efforts, as proposed by neo-Pelagianism? Also, how could it be possible for the salvation mediated by the Incarnation of Jesus, his life, death and Resurrection in his true body, to come to us, if the only thing that mattered were liberating the inner reality of the human person from the limits of the body and the material, as described by the neo-Gnostic vision? In the face of these two trends, the present Letter wants to reaffirm that salvation consists in our union with Christ, who, by his Incarnation, death and Resurrection has brought about a new kind of relationship with the Father and among human persons, and has introduced us into these relationships, thanks to the gift of the Spirit, so that we are able to unite ourselves to the Father as sons in the Son, and become one body in the “firstborn among many brothers” (Rom 8:29).

RE: Placuit Deo - Poche - 03-12-2018

III. The human desire for salvation

5. Man perceives himself, directly or indirectly, as a mystery: ‘Who am I? I exist, and yet do not have the principle of my existence within myself.’ Every person, in his or her own way, searches for happiness and attempts to obtain it by making recourse to the resources one has available. However, this universal aspiration is not necessarily expressed or declared; rather, it is often more secret and hidden than it may appear, and is ready to reveal itself in the face of particular crises. Often it coincides with a hope for physical health; sometimes it takes the form of worrying about greater economic well-being; it expresses itself widely as the need for interior peace and for a peaceful coexistence with one’s neighbour. On the other hand, while the question of salvation presents itself as dedicated toward a higher good, it also maintains the character of endurance and of overcoming pain. Together with the struggle to attain the good comes the fight to ward of evil: ignorance and error, fragility and weakness, sickness and death.

RE: Placuit Deo - Poche - 03-15-2018

6. Regarding these aspirations, faith in Christ teaches, rejecting all claims of self-realization, that these can be fulfilled completely only if God himself makes it possible, by drawing us toward Himself. The total salvation of the person does not consist of the things that the human person can obtain by himself, such as possessions, material well-being, knowledge or abilities, power or influence on others, good reputation or self-satisfaction[10]. No created thing can totally satisfy us, because God has destined us for communion with Him; our hearts will be restless until they rest in Him.[11] “The ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine”.[12] Revelation, in this manner, does not limit itself to announcing salvation as an answer to any particular contemporary desire. “If redemption, on the contrary, were to be judged or measured according to the existential needs of human beings, how could we avoid the suspicion of having simply created a Redeemer God in the image of our own need?”[13]

RE: Placuit Deo - Poche - 03-16-2018

7. It is also necessary to affirm that, according to biblical faith, the origin of evil is not found in the material, corporeal world experienced as a boundary or a prison from which we need to be saved. On the contrary, this faith proclaims that all the universe is good because it was created by God (cf. Gen 1:31; Wis 1:13-14; 1 Tim 4:4), and that the evil that is most damaging to man is that which comes from his heart (cf. Mt 15:18-19; Gen 3:1-19). By sinning, man abandoned the source of love, and loses himself in false forms of love that close him ever more into himself. It is this separation from God – He who is the font of communion and life – that brings about the loss of harmony among human persons, and between humanity and the world, introducing the dominion of disintegration and death (cf. Rom 5:12). As a result, the salvation that faith announces to us does not only pertain to our inner reality, but to our entire being. In fact, it is the whole person, body and soul, that was created by the love of God, in his image and likeness, and is called to live in communion with Him.

RE: Placuit Deo - Poche - 03-20-2018

IV. Christ, Savior and Salvation

8. At no moment in history did God stop offering his salvation to the sons and daughters of Adam (cf. Gen 3:15), establishing his covenant with all of humanity in Noah (cf. Gen 9:9) and, later, with Abraham and his descendants (cf. Gen 15:18). Therefore, Divine salvation takes on the creaturely order shared by all humanity and accompanies their concrete journey in history. By choosing a people to whom He offered the means to fight against sin and to draw close to him, God prepared the coming of “a powerful Savior, in the house of David, his servant” (Lk 1:69). In the fullness of time, the Father sent to the world his Son, who proclaimed the Kingdom of God, curing every disease and illness (cf. Mt 4:23). The healings performed by Jesus, in which he makes present the providence of God, were a sign that pointed back to his own person, He who is fully revealed as Lord of life and of death in his paschal event. According to the Gospel, salvation for all people begins with welcoming Jesus: “Today salvation has come to this house” (Lk 19:9). The good news of salvation has a name and a face: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”[14]

RE: Placuit Deo - Poche - 03-24-2018

9. The Christian faith has illustrated, throughout its centuries-long history, by means of multiple figures, this salvific work of the Son incarnate. It has done so without ever separating the healing dimension of salvation, by which Christ redeems us from sin, from the elevating dimension, by which he makes us sons and daughters of God, participants in his divine nature (cf. 2 Pt 1:4). Considering the salvific perspective in a descending manner, that is, beginning with God who comes to redeem humanity, Jesus is the illuminator and revealer, the redeemer and liberator, the One who divinizes and justifies the human person. According to an ascending vision, that is, beginning with the human person turning towards God, Christ is the High Priest of the New Covenant, offering perfect worship to the Father, in the name of all humanity: He sacrifices Himself, expiates sins, and remains forever alive to intercede on our behalf. In this manner, an incredible synergy between divine and human action appears in the life of Jesus, a synergy that shows how baseless the individualist perspective is. The descending perspective bears witness to the absolute primacy of the gratuitous acts of God; humility is essential to respond to his salvific love and is required to receive the gifts of God, prior to all of our works. At the same time, the ascending perspective recalls that, by means of the fully human action of his Son, the Father wanted to renew our actions, so that, conformed to Christ, we are able to fulfil “the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them” (Eph 2:10).

RE: Placuit Deo - Poche - 04-11-2018

10. Moreover it is clear that the salvation that Jesus brought in his person does not occur only in an interior manner. In fact, the Son was made flesh, in order to communicate to every person the salvific communion with God (cf. Jn 1:14). By assuming flesh (cf. Rom 8:3; Heb 2:14; 1 Jn 4:2), and being born of a woman (cf. Gal 4:4), “the Son of God was made the son of man”[15] and our brother (cf. Heb 2:14). Thus, inasmuch as He became part of the human family, “he has united himself in some fashion with every man and woman”[16] and has established a new kind of relationship with God, his Father, and with all humanity; we can be incorporated in this new kind of relationship and participate in the Son of God’s own life. As a result, rather than limiting the salvific action, assuming flesh allows Christ to mediate the salvation of God for all of the sons and daughters of Adam.