The Year of Faith

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI 1

With his Apostolic Letter of October 11, 2011,Porta Fidei. . . , Pope Benedict XVI declared that a "Year of Faith" will begin on October 11, 2012 and conclude on November 24, 2013. October 11, 2012, the first day of the Year of Faith, is the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. . . (Vatican II) and also the twentieth anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. During the Year of Faith, Catholics are asked to study and reflect on the documents of Vatican II and the catechism so that they may deepen their knowledge of the faith. 1

"Increase our faith!" (Lk 17:5) is the Apostles' prayer to the Lord Jesus, when they realize that faith, which is a gift from God, is the only way of having a personal relationship with him and fulfilling their vocation as disciples. Their plea arose from an awareness that their limitations kept them from forgiving others. Faith is also needed in performing signs which illustrate the presence of the Kingdom of God in the world. Jesus used the fig tree, withered to its roots, to encourage his disciples. "Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours" (Mk 11:22-24). St. Mark the Evangelist also emphasizes the importance of faith in accomplishing great works. "Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and never doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea', it will be done" (Mt 21:21).

On various occasions, the Lord Jesus admonishes "the Twelve" for their lack of faith. To the question of why they were unable to cast out a demon, the Master responds: "Because of your little faith" (Mt 17:20). On the Sea of Tiberias, before calming the storm, Jesus reproves his disciples: "Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?" (Mt 8:26). They were to entrust themselves to God and to Providence, and not worry about material things. "But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith?" (Mt 6:30; cf. Lk 12:28). A similar situation takes place before the multiplication of the loaves. Faced with the realization that the disciples had forgotten to take bread in crossing to the other side of the lake, the Lord Jesus says: "O men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?" (Mt 16:8-9).

Matthew's Gospel gives special attention to the account of Jesus' walking on the water and reaching the Apostles in the boat. After calming the Apostles' fear, he accepts the challenge of St. Peter: "Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water" (Mt 14:28). At first, St. Peter walks towards Jesus on the water without any difficulty. "But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, 'Lord, save me!' Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, 'O man of little faith, why did you doubt?'" (Mt 14:30-31). Afterwards, Jesus and St. Peter together get into the boat and the wind ceases. The disciples, witnesses to this great happening, prostrate themselves before the Lord and make a full profession of faith: "Truly you are the Son of God!" (Mt 14:33). In our times, St. Peter's experience can be reflected in many of the faithful as well as entire Christian communities, especially in traditionally Christian countries. In fact, because of a lack of faith, various particular Churches are witnessing a decline in sacramental and Christian practice among the faithful to the point that some members can even be called "non-believers " cf. Mt 17:17; 13,58). At the same time, many particular Churches, after initially displaying a great enthusiasm, are now showing signs of weariness and apprehension in the face of very complex situations in today's world. Like St. Peter, they grow fearful of opposing forces and temptations of various kinds as well as challenges that surpass their human capabilities. But, just as salvation came to St. Peter from Christ alone, so too the faithful, when they become personally involved as members of an ecclesial community, can experience Christ's saving grace. Only the Lord Jesus can extend his hand and indicate the sure path in the journey of faith.

These brief reflections on faith in the Gospels can help illustrate the topic of the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops: "The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith". The importance given to the faith is further emphasized by the decision of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI to celebrate a Year of Faith, beginning on 11 October 2012, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the twentieth anniversary of the publication of The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Both observances will take place during the celebration of the synod. Once again, the Lord's words to St. Peter the Apostle, the rock on which he built his Church, have particular meaning (cf. Mt 16:19): "But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren" (Lk 22:32). "The door of faith" (Acts 14:27) will again be open to all of us.

The goal of evangelization today is, as always, the transmission of the Christian faith. This task primarily concerns communities of Jesus' disciples which are organized into particular Churches, diocesan and eparchial, whose worshippers gather regularly for liturgical celebrations, hear the Word of God, celebrate the sacraments — especially the Eucharist — and look to pass on the treasure of faith to the members of their families, communities and parishes. They accomplish this task by proclaiming and bearing witness to the Christian life through the catechumenate, catechesis and works of charity. Evangelization in general is the everyday work of the Church. With the assistance of the Holy Spirit, this so-called ordinary evangelizing activity can be endowed with renewed vigour. New methods and new forms of expression are needed to convey to the people of today the perennial truth of Jesus Christ, forever new and the source of all newness. Only a sound and robust faith, witnessed in a poignant manner in the lives of the martyrs, can give impetus to many short-term or long-range pastoral projects, breathe new life into existing structures and spur a pastoral creativity to meet the needs of people today and the expectations of present-day society. This renewed dynamism in the Christian community will lead to renewed missionary activity (missio ad gentes), now more urgent than ever, given the large number of people who do not know Jesus Christ, in not only far-off countries but also those already evangelized.

By allowing themselves to be animated by the Holy Spirit, Christians will then be more attuned to their brothers and sisters who, despite being baptized, have drifted from the Church and Christian practice. The new evangelization is primarily directed to these people so that they can rediscover the beauty of their Christian faith and the joy of a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus in the Church and the community of the faithful. 2

"The 'door of faith' (Acts14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church."---Pope Benedict XVI, Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei for the Indiction of the Year of Faith.

The upcoming Year of Faith is a “summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the One Savior of the world” (Porta Fidei 6). In other words, the Year of Faith is an opportunity for Catholics to experience a conversion – to turn back to Jesus and enter into a deeper relationship with him. The “door of faith” is opened at one’s baptism, but during this year Catholics are called to open it again, walk through it and rediscover and renew their relationship with Christ and his Church. 3

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