A Word in Season
Faith Illuminates Life and Society: Chapter 4 of Lumen Fidei
Consolation and Strength Amid Suffering
This section speaks to the trials of the Christian in the world today, and how this also existed with the early church Christians who strived to by the light of faith in a darkened world.
By uniting our faith to Christ we can endure whatever trials come our way, both personally, and in society.
To speak of faith often involves speaking of painful testing, yet it is precisely in such testing that Paul sees the most convincing proclamation of the Gospel, for it is in weakness and suffering that we discover God's power which triumphs over our weakness and suffering. The apostle himself experienced a dying which would become life for Christians. (cf. 2 Cor. 4:7-12) In the hour of trial faith brings light, while suffering and weakness make it evident that "we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord." (2 Cor. 4:5)
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Christians know that suffering cannot be eliminated, yet it can have meaning and become an act of love and entrustment into the hands of God who does not abandon us; in this way it can serve as a moment of growth in faith and love. By contemplating Christ's union with the Father even at the height of his sufferings on the cross, (cf. Mk. 15:34) Christians learn to share in the same gaze of Jesus.
This chapter links faith and hope as it applies to suffering. Faith is not so much a cure for suffering, as it is a consolation bringing hope.
Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey. To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light. In Christ, God himself wishes to share this path with us and to offer us his gaze so that we might see the light within it. Christ is the one who, having endured suffering, is "the pioneer and perfecter of our faith." (Heb. 12:2)
Suffering reminds us that faith's service to the common good is always one of hope—a hope which looks ever ahead in the knowledge that only from God, from the future which comes from the risen Jesus, can our society find solid and lasting foundations. In this sense faith is linked to hope, for even if our dwelling place here below is wasting away, we have an eternal dwelling place which God has already prepared in Christ, in his body. (cf. 2 Cor. 4:16-5:5)
In faith, we experience the presence of Christ accompanying us through our suffering and difficulties. This faith sustains us personally plus it has the power to sustain societies, and the world. This is the faith leading us to that city "whose architect and builder is God" (Heb. 11:10).
At the cross, the pinnacle of human and spiritual suffering, Jesus introduced us to the spiritual mother of us all, his Mother, Mary. She experienced soul-crushing heartache, yet abided in faith in God. And so the encyclical transitions to its final theme: deep homage to the perfect disciple, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Blessed Is She Who Believed
"The Mother of the Lord is the perfect icon of faith ... 'Blessed is she who believed.'" (Lk. 1:45). (LF 57) A faithful life is a fruitful life. Both physical and spiritual fruit are born from faith.
Mary's faith led to the ultimate spiritual fruitfulness—the blessed fruit of her womb, Jesus. When our lives become spiritually fruitful, Francis says, one of the side effects is joy. It is "the clearest sign of faith's grandeur." (LF 58)
The Holy Father closes Lumen Fidei with a prayer asking Mary's intercession, as the Mother of our faith. It invokes the themes of faith contained within this encyclical, and much more.
Mary, help our faith!
Open our ears to hear God's word
and to recognize his voice and call.
Awaken in us a desire to follow in his footsteps,
to go forth from our own land
and to receive his promise.
Help us to be touched by his love,
that we may touch him in faith.
Help us to entrust ourselves fully to him
and to believe in his love,
especially at times of trial,
beneath the shadow of the cross,
when our faith is called to mature.
Sow in our faith the joy of the Risen One.
Remind us that we are never alone.
Teach us to see all things with the eyes of Jesus,
That he may be a light to our path.
And may this light of faith always increase in us,
Until the dawn of that undying day
which is Christ Himself,
your Son, our Lord! (LF 60)
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.