Saturday, April 13, 2002

We Now Return To Our Regularly Scheduled Program

Reflections on CFL: Paragraphs 4 through 7

A great deal of these sections of CFL are devoted to JPII's read of the "signs of the times". I'm not going to bother discussing them. Most who read this site probably accept his analysis already.

It's where JPII takes us after this survey of the state of the world that is important to me. Focusing on the dignity of the human person, the pontiff writes:

"The sense of the dignity of the human person must be pondered and reaffirmed in stronger terms. A beneficial trend is advancing and permeating all peoples of the earth, making them ever more aware of the dignity of the individual: the person is not at all a "thing" or an "object" to be used, but primarily a responsible "subject," one endowed with conscience and freedom; called to live responsibly in society and history; and oriented towards spiritual and religious values."
Ah, yes, the pope's personalism philosophy. Our philosopher Vicar of Christ couldn't let the Exhortation proceed further without it. (With good reason of course!) Personalism can be tough to digest because of its roots in phenomenology. (The quote captures its essence, but for those interested in learning more about personalism check out the first chapter of Wojtyla's Love & Responsibility.) This is that second fundamental to living out the Gospel that I referred to in an earlier post. Whatever our walk of life might be, it always involves interacting with other people. By not treating other people as a means to our ends, we affirm their dignity in having been created in God's image. In today's society that just might be the most powerful witness possible to the Gospel.

This is a different form of Gospel-living and evangelism than what normally comes to mind. It is very much in the same spirit as St. Francis' famous quote, "Preach the Gospel; if necessary use words." I often worry that I focus too much on the last part of St. Francis' phrase and let that become a justification for inaction. The pope's emphasis on the dignity of the human person properly redirects our attention to the first half of the phrase: preach the Gospel! The manner may not involve words, but it certainly is active, intentional and done from a foundation of prayer. I think it is this form of evangelization that leads JPII to conclude that the laity is vital to the spread of the Gospel:
"The lay faithful have an essential and irreplaceable role in this announcement [JACK: the Gospel] and in this testimony: through them the Church of Christ is made present in the various sectors of the world as a sign and source of hope and of love."
Coming Soon: Reflections on Paragraphs 8 through 13 of CFL

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