The Bible in Dialogue with Questions of the Day: Advent: a call to renewal of Faith

Reflection and Dialogue. Renewal of faith. The heading for our dialogue with questions of the day for the Second Sunday of Advent last year on this internet site was: “Living in Patience and Perseverance with the Living God”. Advent by definition is a time of waiting, inviting reflection on this theme. We live in an age very conscious of time, of the countless millions of years since the big bang, since life began, since the first humans and the first of our species appeared on earth. Throughout its history Israel awaited some future redemption. It had visions of better times. It lived through trials and suffering. Likewise with the Church. When we think of Advent, of waiting and coming, we can think of the kingdom of God, long awaited by Israel, and, even after fulfilment by Christ, still coming.

            A theme worthy of reflecting on during this Advent is that of faith. All believers are witnesses to the kingdom of God, that the awaited One, the One that was to Come, has come in Christ, and continues in the Church. But given the changed world in which believers now live serious reflection on their faith is called for today. In 2011 Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed a year of faith and has written an Apostolic Letter on the matter, which is available on the internet.

            The Pope in his Apostolic Letter has made a number of points that merit consideration. He notes (paragraph 2): “It often happens that Christians are more concerned for the social, cultural and political consequences of their commitment, continuing to think of the faith as a self-evident presupposition for life in society. In reality, not only can this presupposition no longer be taken for granted, but it is often openly denied. Whereas in the past it was possible to recognize a unitary cultural matrix, broadly accepted in its appeal to the content of the faith and the values inspired by it, today this no longer seems to be the case in large swathes of society, because of a profound crisis of faith that has affected many people”. These are words addressed to the Catholic Church world wide, but can be applied in a special way to Ireland today. Somewhat later the Pope returns to the same theme. Reflection on the faith will have to be intensified, so as to help all believers in Christ to acquire a more conscious and vigorous adherence to the Gospel, especially at a time of profound change such as humanity is currently experiencing. To a greater extent than in the past, faith is now being subjected to a series of questions arising from a changed mentality which, especially today, limits the field of rational certainties to that of the scientific and technological discoveries. Nevertheless, the Church has never been afraid of demonstrating that there cannot be any conflict between faith and genuine science, because both albeit via different routes, tend towards the truth (paragraphs 8 and 12).

            Reflection on these central truths of the faith is more important than giving undue attention to matters of Church organization or related matters. If shortcomings in the Church are to be overcome, it will be by reason of her central beliefs.

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