A Word in Season
Faith Illuminates Life and Society: Chapter 4 of Lumen Fidei
This is the fifth and last installment of this look at Francis' first encyclical, Lumen Fidei. Look for summaries of the introduction and the first three chapters, here. This post will feature a look into chapter four, "God Prepares a City for Them."
God has our best in mind—always! God sees the eternal city he longs to bring us to one day. Yet at the same time God provides faith for the life we are called to build in our homes, cities, and societies. In this final chapter of Lumen Fidei (LF), Francis explores how faith builds a better world for the sake of all.
Faith and the Common Good
Faith is not only a journey, but also "a process of building, the preparing of a place in which human beings can dwell together with one another."(LF 50) God first built the Creation where humanity could live and flourish. Then he took it a step farther and engaged humanity, calling us into a relationship with himself.
We've seen from history that God always builds with the good of his people in mind. God calls us to build with him, and we must do so with faith in God in mind.
The faith of Abraham and the Old Testament peoples was built upon the promises of God and a yearning for their fulfillment: a holy land, a chosen nation, a blessing for the world. The Letter to the Hebrews recalls how their faith was built on God.
They desired a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city (Heb.11:16).
Faith builds reliably on the firmness and fidelity of God himself. Faith illuminates all we do, not just for ourselves but for the good of all.
We are designed to think and act like God—for the common good—building families and societies with faith.
Faith makes us appreciate the architecture of human relationships because it grasps their ultimate foundation and definitive destiny in God, in his love, and thus sheds light on the art of building; as such it becomes a service to the common good. Faith is truly a good for everyone; it is a common good. Its light does not simply brighten the interior of the Church, nor does it serve solely to build an eternal city in the hereafter; it helps us build our societies in such a way that they can journey towards a future of hope. (LF 51)
Faith and the Family
Families are the building blocks of society that best serve the common good. God's master plan uses families to bring love to the world.
The first setting in which faith enlightens the human city is the family. I think first and foremost of the stable union of man and woman in marriage. This union is born of their love, as a sign and presence of God's own love, and of the acknowledgment and acceptance of the goodness of sexual differentiation, whereby spouses can become one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24) and are enabled to give birth to a new life, a manifestation of the Creator's goodness, wisdom and loving plan. Grounded in this love, a man and a woman can promise each other mutual love in a gesture which engages their entire lives and mirrors many features of faith. Promising love for ever is possible when we perceive a plan bigger than our own ideas and undertakings, a plan which sustains us and enables us to surrender our future entirely to the one we love. Faith also helps us to grasp in all its depth and richness the begetting of children, as a sign of the love of the Creator who entrusts us with the mystery of a new person. (LF 52)
Truly the vocation of marriage and family life is bigger than what a husband and wife might plan for themselves. Their home is the field where the seeds of God's plan are sown; it is where faith is passed on and where children learn to trust in the love of parents, and ultimately trust God too.
This is why it is so important that within their families parents encourage shared expressions of faith which can help children gradually to mature in their own faith. (LF 53)
The encounter with Christ is an indispensible necessity to fruitful family life. Strong Christian marriages give birth and build strong Christians. Homes built on the foundation of Christ provide a secure and firm environment for the conversion of children and their spiritual maturing.
Encountering Christ, letting themselves be caught up in and guided by his love, enlarges the horizons of existence, gives [life] a firm hope which will not disappoint. Faith is no refuge for the fainthearted, but something which enhances our lives. It makes us aware of a magnificent calling, the vocation of love. It assures us that this love is trustworthy and worth embracing, for it is based on God's faithfulness which is stronger than our every weakness. (LF 53)
Pat Gohn is a Catholic writer, speaker, and the host of the Among Women Podcast and blog. Her book Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood is published by Ave Maria Press. Subscribe to “A Word in Season” via email or RSS.