Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Jesus Christ, the liberator of humankind

Nativity mural at Batahola Norte Community Center in Managua, Nicaragua

In a really insightful article, Fr. Roger Haight, S.J., whose book, Jesus Symbol of God, merited a notification from the he Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, masterfully condenses developments in theology since the Second Vatican Council in seven stages, with one stage, stage three, being divided in two. The first part of stage three, which deals with the development of liberation theology, or, better stated, theologies of liberation is summarized in this way, with two lessons:

"Stage 3: Gutiérrez, Segundo, Sobrino, Ellacuría
Latin American Liberation Theology

"Two fundamental elements reflect the essential logic of liberation theology. The first is negative experience, which leads to an awareness of the dehumanized condition of large numbers of people. The experience has three dimensions: a situation is wrong; we know it could and should be different; the contrast fuels an urge to right the wrong. What does Christian theology say to this situation?

"The second fundamental element of liberation theology seeks to answer that question. The response appears embryonically in Luke’s parable of the Good Samaritan, which can be read as dramatizing the principle that love of God is displayed as love of neighbor. The truth of the principle is conveyed with climactic force by the shocking fact that only the Samaritan had internalized it. Modernity adds a conviction that beyond tying up the victim’s wounds, true love will make the road to Jericho safe for all. With this addendum liberation theology rewrites the parable for the whole world.

"Lesson 4. Social practice is an intrinsic dimension of Christian faith from which one cannot prescind. One of the deepest principles liberation theology presents to the Christian community is that action and practice are not just the consequences of faith, but the intrinsic testimonial of its authenticity. As Ignatius of Loyola postulated in his Spiritual Exercises, 'Love ought to manifest itself more by deeds than by words' (No. 230). For this love to be effective and authentic, it must be directed against the causes of human suffering.

"Lesson 5. Social-ethical considerations are intrinsic to theological understanding. Catholic theology has come to a new realization of the social ethical implications of Christian faith. After a period of separation between theology and ethics, theology has recognized the necessity of accountability. In 1971 the essential link between faith and justice was written into magisterial teaching when the World Synod of Bishops wrote that 'action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the gospel' (Justice in the World, Nov. 30, 1971)" (America Vol. 198 No.9- subscription required and recommended).

Bible scholar Luke Timothy Johnson, writing in Commonweal, responds to the CDF's notification of Fr. Sobrino's Christology. Johnson shows that there is still something of a phobia about all things that smack of the liberation theology. Without a doubt theology is an ecclesial endeavor. Therefore, any theology that merits the name is subject to authority. Nonetheless, it seems that there needs to be more of a dialogue and perhaps a way of reading that does not assume the worst. Any serious work of theology is always a bit ambiguous and begs for more dialogue, facilitates dialogue and brings not only reason, but experience, into contact with faith, seeking to make sense of human experience in the light of faith.

It is a new month, April, the day for foolery. We have snow on the ground and we have already been in Easter for more than a week. It is all weird, but in a good way, in a way that makes me more attentive and aware. Lent was intense, Easter is proving even more intense, busier. Spring means life, Easter means a lot of sacraments, the media through which God communicates his divine life to us.

Happy April Fool's Day!

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