Thursday, July 17, 2008

WYD- The Pope speaks to us quite directly

In his speech (read full-text here) welcoming young people to WYD down-under, in Sydney, the Holy Father spoke directly to the late modern (I hereby repudiate the term post-modern) situation in which young adults find themselves weary of Enlightment-style false progress and skeptical about fundamentalistic, that is, bad religion, which seems to abound, even in western societies. Pope Benedict clearly understands that this situation presents a great opportunity for an authentic proclamation of the Gospel, the good news that is Jesus Christ. He acknowledges this with this statement: "My dear friends, God’s creation is one and it is good. The concerns for non-violence, sustainable development, justice and peace, and care for our environment are of vital importance for humanity. They cannot, however, be understood apart from a profound reflection upon the innate dignity of every human life from conception to natural death: a dignity conferred by God himself and thus inviolable. Our world has grown weary of greed, exploitation and division, of the tedium of false idols and piecemeal responses, and the pain of false promises. Our hearts and minds are yearning for a vision of life where love endures, where gifts are shared, where unity is built, where freedom finds meaning in truth, and where identity is found in respectful communion. This is the work of the Holy Spirit! This is the hope held out by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is to bear witness to this reality that you were created anew at Baptism and strengthened through the gifts of the Spirit at Confirmation".

He also made a plea for environmental protection, securing a future for generations to come lamenting the "scars which mark the surface of our earth - erosion, deforestation, the squandering of the world's mineral and ocean resources in order to fuel an insatiable consumption".

This leads him to the heart of his remarks- "And we discover that not only the natural but also the social environment – the habitat we fashion for ourselves – has its scars; wounds indicating that something is amiss. Here too, in our personal lives and in our communities, we can encounter a hostility, something dangerous; a poison which threatens to corrode what is good, reshape who we are, and distort the purpose for which we have been created. Examples abound, as you yourselves know. Among the more prevalent are alcohol and drug abuse, and the exaltation of violence and sexual degradation, often presented through television and the internet as entertainment. I ask myself, could anyone standing face to face with people who actually do suffer violence and sexual exploitation 'explain' that these tragedies, portrayed in virtual form, are considered merely 'entertainment'?

"There is also something sinister which stems from the fact that freedom and tolerance are so often separated from truth. This is fuelled by the notion, widely held today, that there are no absolute truths to guide our lives. Relativism, by indiscriminately giving value to practically everything, has made 'experience' all-important. Yet, experiences, detached from any consideration of what is good or true, can lead, not to genuine freedom, but to moral or intellectual confusion, to a lowering of standards, to a loss of self-respect, and even to despair.

"Dear friends, life is not governed by chance; it is not random. Your very existence has been willed by God, blessed and given a purpose (cf. Gen 1:28)! Life is not just a succession of events or experiences, helpful though many of them are. It is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful. It is to this end that we make our choices; it is for this that we exercise our freedom; it is in this – in truth, in goodness, and in beauty – that we find happiness and joy. Do not be fooled by those who see you as just another consumer in a market of undifferentiated possibilities, where choice itself becomes the good, novelty usurps beauty, and subjective experience displaces truth."

Extrapolating a bit from some the Pontiff's riffs, I wonder about those forms of video entertainment, like pornography, that are not virtual, but actual? How can watching the defilement of another person, her degradation, even when what you are watching only features "consenting adults," be entertainment? Is sex a commodity to be bought and sold? Is a human being a commodity? Is promiscuity the way to female empowerment as the so-called post-feminists assert? How are human beings to intimately relate to each other, have children, raise them, and make a more authentically human world, instead of the increasingly inhumane and dehumanizing one?

It occurs to me, somewhat randomly this morning, that married love is an icon of Trinitarian love. God is love, we are called to love, we are called to share in divine love, which constitutes, at the deepest level, the mystery of the Blessed Trinity (1 Jn 4,7b-15). Whatever does not contribute to ushering in a culture of love, which is an authentically human culture, must be eyed with deep suspicion and ultimately rejected. As disciples of the Lord Jesus, we must be, in a word, discerning, which requires not only much prayer and fasting, but the employment, the full use of our ability to reason.

These remarks are just another sign that shows that Pope Benedict XVI understands very well the late modern milieu and the human concerns and issues that arise out of it. Further, as he is a master, he shows how faith in Christ compels us to act rightly, using the divine gift of human reason, which is a sure sign we possess the imago dei, while putting our ultimate trust in God, in addressing the issues we face. Viva il Papa!

"O God,
you have called men and women of every land
to be a holy nation, a royal priesthood,
the Church of your dear Son:
unite us in mutual love
across the barriers of race and culture,
and strengthen us in our common task
of being Christ
and showing Christ
to the world he came to save.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ,
your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever."

--Benedict XVI
Opening Prayer
Welcome at Barangaroo, Sydney
17 July 2008

(BBC News has brief video clip of the Holy Father giving this address in their report)

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