Monday, March 26, 2007

A Person not an ideology

This is something that Pope Benedict has said often and in many different ways, not least in his first encyclical: that at the heart of Christianity is a Person, not an ideology. These thoughts are deveoped in this brief article on evangelization by Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, of Communion and Liberation. Here are some salient points:
As Father Giussani has written, Christian evangelization is destroyed when we embrace the illusion that a non-Christian culture (where Christianity’s originating events are of no concern) should be confronted and overcome by a Christian culture (cf Dal temperamento un metodo, p 53). This, he says, is a deadly “fundamental error” that can tempt us, but which must be firmly rejected.
We cannot place our hopes on the creation of a “Christian culture,” and even less on going back to an idyllic past where Christianity maintained cultural hegemony. Such historical developments are not for us to design or plan. We do not know and will never know the “time plan” which the Father has for human history.
Instead, we must place our hope not on cultural proposals but on the event of Christ, on something that has already happened. Evangelization is to give witness to the fact–to the verifiable fact–that this event can and does still happen today because it has happened to us as something unforeseen, something amazing that surprises us, something that is not the result of our efforts or our particular ethical and spiritual predispositions. It is this that gives rise to concern, because an event is something that touches the heart, that changes us, that gives us a new vision of life’s possibilities.
To believe that one becomes a Christian through the proper philosophy, theology, spirituality, morality, or cultural project, is a presumption; it is to see our efforts as the cause of our belonging to Christ. Instead, we become Christians because the Incarnation happened in history, because the Paschal Mystery happened, because Pentecost happened, and because those events continue to happen in the world today. They happen now because they happened then and because the Church exists in the world as the life of a communion of persons created by these events, and making them present today through the sacraments. They happen because Christ has risen from the dead and can be encountered today with exactly the same results experienced by Andrew, James, John, Peter, Mary Magdalen, the Samaritan woman, the man born blind, Zaccheus, and the criminal at the cross next to His. Something happened to them. It was an event. The key to the Christian life, the point of departure, is not an intellectual or cultural proposal. It is this event. This is what creates the concern which post-Christian man has so tragically lost. Evangelization is to give witness of our amazement at this unimaginable event. Evangelization is confession.
I wish we could all remember this, especially as the din of the culture-war drowns out everything else. Do check out the comments on this passage at this neat blog. [Hat tip to Bill Cork.] A Person, not an ideology. I wonder how things would look if all of us really believed that, and acted as if it were true?

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