Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Fides et Ratio and the Heights of Contemplation

(Wednesday of the 5th Week of Lent-Year B; This homily was given on 1 April, 2009 at the Chapel of The American College of the Immaculate Conception in Louvain, Belgium; See John 8:31-42)

In the introduction to his encyclical letter on faith and reason—Fides et Ratio—our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, mentions the temple at Delphi. Across the portal of that ancient Greek temple was the famous admonition “Know yourself.”

That axiom is at the very foundation of philosophy, for to know ourselves is to know our strengths and our weaknesses; it allows us to gain insight about our vices and deepen our understanding of the virtues. To know ourselves means to know how we relate to the world around us and how we relate, personally, to the people in our lives. “Know yourself” is the starting point for growing in wisdom and in all the knowledge that this world has to offer.

But John Paul II goes on to talk about how self-knowledge is only the minimum of what it means to be human. Deep within our hearts we long not only for knowledge regarding the truth about ourselves and the truth about the world we live in; we also yearn and long for the truth about God.

In fact, says John Paul II, God “has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth-in a word, to know Himself-so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves” (Fides et Ratio, Introduction).

When we know the truth about who we are in the image and likeness of God, then we begin to live and love in a whole new way. When we discover the love God has for us in Christ, then we are free to love like Him and become the men and women we were always created to be.

That is at the heart of what Christ is communicating in St. John's Gospel this morning when He says:

“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
—John 8:31-32

If you remain in my word...

If you stay close to me…

If you do not allow obstacles to get in your way…

If you continue in this message of the gospel that I am making known to you…then “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

The more we come to know the truth about God, the more completely free we become, and all the more joyful in the Christian life. We are no longer slaves to sin, as Christ mentions in that Gospel, because we have come to know the truth about the forgiveness we have in Him.

There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8:39). We are given the grace to let go of the obstacles of sin and selfishness that had so easily beset us, and to persevere in the virtues that draw us closer to God and one another with our eyes and hearts set on Christ (see Hebrews 12:1). That truth changes us and allows us to grow in freedom like never before.

We can ask ourselves today:

Am I growing in knowledge of the truth, both the truth about myself and the world I live in, as well as the truth about the love of God in Christ?

Am I able to grow in wisdom and experience, in a philosophical sense, always open to the faith that God gives to all who seek Him?

If the answer is “Yes,” then we have what it takes to soar today to the very heights of heaven; John Paul II begins that encyclical, Fides et Ratio, with the following words:

Faith and reason are like two wings on which

the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.

May we reach those heights in our own lives today, and grasping that truth, may we experience the freedom of the sons and daughters of God (Romans 8:21).