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A Once in a World Experience
on August 27, 2013
I read "Light of Faith" en route to Brazil for World Youth Day 2013 in Rio. Much had been made of this encyclical's background, the "work of four hands" document, the tag team operation by Benedict XVI and Francis, and after setting aside wondering who's responsible for what, you just need to read and enjoy that this is one of the most important texts of the decade.
When in Rio observing the ecstatic reception the Brazilians gave Francis, hearing him during WYD reflected much of the content in "Light of Faith." Broken up into four chapters and only 60 sections -- a short encyclical, keeping in tune with Benedict's soft but profound trilogy (these are no John Paul II blockbusters) -- "Light of Faith" is a feast for those familiar with the works of both Francis and Benedict. However, for the regular Catholic and anyone of goodwill, "Light of Faith" invites all to examine faith in general, but also their own faith, challenging everyone to "see things as Jesus himself sees them."
Through profound reflections on God's love, the relationship between faith and truth, and the need for divine light in our lives, there is a moment late in "Light of Faith" that crystallizes the joint message of both Benedict and Francis, indeed from the popes down to Christ: "Who do you say that I am?" Essentially, Francis (and Benedict) put forth the idea that "When faith is weakened, the foundations of humanity also risk being weakened." Francis urges us -- as he did in Rio and as Benedict did in Madrid -- to not be ashamed of God. If we have faith, we are not ashamed of God, just as "God is not ashamed to be called their God" (Heb 1:16).
Essentially, we cannot be passive about faith, we have an obligation to bring it to others.
In short, I submit "Light of Faith" is a quiet masterpiece and we can all be the better for reading it.