NEXT MEETING NOV. 20, 7:30PM @ Good Shepherd Catholic Church


The Community of St. John Paul II

invites you to our new prayer and study group inspired by the life, spirituality and writings of Pope St. John Paul II.   Our goal is to deepen our faith, grow in love for God and our neighbor and live the Gospel message to the fullest as taught and exemplified by Pope St. John Paul II. 


Please join  us every 
1st & 3rd Tuesdays at 7:30PM, Parish Hall ,
Good Shepherd 
Catholic Church
14187 SW 72 Street
Miami, FL 33183
(305) 772-4951


READING SCHEDULE:

This Month's ReadingCrossing the Threshold of Hope
Excerpts from Sections: (click read more...)


"The Pope": A Scandal and a Mystery
p.3
  
I state right from the outset: 'Be not afraid!' this is the same exhortation that resounded at the beginning of my ministry in the See of Saint Peter.  Christ addressed this invitation many times to those He met. The angel said to Mary... to Joseph.... Christ said the same to the apostoles, to Peter... And with the Church, they are repeated by the Pope."... (These words) are profoundly rooted in the Gospel... the words of Christ himself.

Of what should we not be afraid? We should not fear the truth about ourselves.

Peter said to Jesus: 'Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man' 5:8)… Everyone of us is indebted to Peter for what he said on that day... Christ answered him: 'do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men' (Lk 5:10). 

Do not be afraid of God, but invoke Him with me: 'Our Father' (Mt 6:9).  Do not be afraid to say 'Father'!

Christ is the sacrament of the invisible God - a sacrament that indicates presence. God is with us.

Be not afraid of God who became man!  … Peter said at Caesarea Philippi: 'you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God' (Mt 16:16).  Peter uttered these words through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Church also continues to utter them through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Peter was not afraid of God who had become a man.  He was afraid, instead, for the Son of God as a man.  Peter could not accept that He would be whipped and crowned with thorns and finally crucified. Peter could not accept that.  He was afraid.  And for this Christ severely reproached him, but He did not reject him. Peter had good will and a fervent heart and Christ did not reject him...
Peter, as a man, demonstrated that he was not capable of following Christ everywhere, and especially not to death.  … after the Resurrection, Christ confirmed Peter's mission.  He said meaningfully "Feed my lambs... tend my sheep" (Jn 21:15-16)

Thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit, Christ could have confidence in Peter, He could lean on him - on him and on all the other apostles...

...expressions such as "Supreme Pontiff", "Your Holiness," and "Holy Father" are of little importance. What is important originated in the Death and Resurrection of Christ... that which comes from the power of the Holy Spirit.   For example... Peter... the apostles, Paul… became authentic witnesses of Christ, faithful unto the shedding of their blood. 

He (Peter) became the 'rock', even if as a man, perhaps, he was nothing more than shifting sand.  Christ Himself is the rock, and Christ builds His Church on Peter, Paul and the apostles.  The Church is apostolic in virtue of Christ.

The Church professes: "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

(Of the Trinity) This Revelation is definitive; one can only accept it or reject it.... or one can reject all of this, writing in capital letters: 'God does not have a Son.' … Peter himself had difficulties in this respect?  He believed in the Son of God, but he was unable to accept that this Son of God, as a man, could be whipped … and then had to die on the Cross.

Is it any wonder that even those who believe in on God, of whom Abraham was a witness, find it difficult to have faith in a crucified God?  They hold God can only be powerful...grandiose, absolute transcendent and beautiful in His power, holy and inaccessible to man... He can not be Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit... be Love that gives of Himself and that permits that He be seen,... heard, that He be imitated as a man...bound, beaten and crucified. this cannot be God!... Therefore, at the center of a great tradition of monotheism a profound division was introduced.

… the Pope is a mystery... a sign that will be contradicted, that he is a challenge.

Be not afraid of God's mystery; do not be afraid of Hi love; and do not be afraid of man's weakness or of his grandeur! Man does not cease to be great, not even in his weakness. Do not be afraid of being witnesses to the dignity of every human being, from the moment of conception until death.

Jesus said to the apostles:'I am with you always, until the end of the age' (Mt 28:20). Though invisible, He is personally present tin His Church.  He is likewise present in each Christian, by virtue of baptism and the other sacraments.  

It was usual to say, as early as the era of the Fathers, 'Christianus alter Christus' ('The Christian is another Christ') meaning by this to emphasize the dignity of the baptized and his vocation, through Christ, to holiness...  Christ brings about a special presence in every priest, who when celebrating the Eucharist or administering the sacraments, does so in persona Christi. 

Expression 'Vicar of Christ' assumes its true meaning.. more than dignity, it alludes to service. ...Servant of the Servants of God.

each bishop is (also) vicarious Christi … which it is tightly bound as it is to the dignity of each bishop, each priest, and each of the baptized.

What supreme dignity those men and women have who are consecrated, who, as their vocation, have chosen to embrace the nuptial dimension of the Church - Christ's bride! Christ, Redeemer fo the world and of humanity, is the Bridegroom of the Church and of all of those who belong to it.

(as St. Augustine said) 'I am a bishop for you, I am a  Christian with you'.... christianus has far greater significance than epicospus, even if the subject is the Bishop of Rome. 





Praying: How and Why?
Your Holiness, how does one address Jesus? How does one have a dialogue, in prayer, with Christ, who gave Peter the 'keys to the Kingdom of Heaven'... ?
p.15



You are asking the Pope how he prayers... 'The Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings' (Rome 8:26)

What is prayer?  It is commonly held to be a conversation.... and 'I' and a 'thou' or 'you.'  In this case the 'Thou' is with a capital T...the 'Thou' is more important, because our prayer begins with God.

...prayer reflects all created reality; it is in a certain sense a cosmic function. 

Man is the priest of all creation; he speaks in its name, but only insofar as he is guided by the Spirit. ...'For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; … in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God...' (Rom 8:19-24)

In prayer, then, the true protagonist is God. The protagonist is Christ, who constantly frees creation from slavery to corruption and leads it toward liberty, for the glory of the children of God.  The protagonist is the Holy Spirit, who 'comes to the aid of our weakness.'

Through all of this one must proclaim glory.  Prayer is always an opus gloriae (a work, a labor, of glory).  Man is the priest of all creation.  Christ conferred upon him this dignity and vocation.  Creation completes its opus gloriae both by being what it is and by its duty to become what should be.

Man achieves the fullness of prayer not when he expresses himself, but when he lets God be most fully present in prayer.

How Does the Pope Pray?
How - and for whom, for what - does the Pope pray?
p.19


You would have to ask the Holy Spirit!  The Pope prays as the Holy Spirit permits him to pray. I think he has to pray in a way in which, deepening the mystery revealed in Christ, he can better fulfill his ministry. 

The subject of the Pope's prayer...'The joy and the hope, the grief and the anguish of the people of our time.' (as in Gaudium et spes).

Gospel means 'good news', and the Good News is always an invitation to joy.  What is the Gospel? It is a grand affirmation of the world and of man, because it is the revelation of the truth about God.  God is the primary source of joy and hope for man.  This is the God whom Christ revealed; God who is Creator and Father; God who 'so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life' (Jn 3:16)  


The Gospel, above all else, is the joy of creation. 

God the Creator seems to say of all creation: 'It is good that you exist.'  And His joy spreads especially through the 'good news,' according to which good is greater than all that is evil in the world.  Evil, in fact, is neither fundamental nor definitive.  This point clearly distinguishes Christianity from all forms of existential pessimism. 

Creation was given and entrusted to humankind as a duty, representing not a source of suffering but the foundation of a creative existence in the world.  A person who believes in the essential goodness of all creation is capable of discovering all the secrets of creation, in order to perfect continually the work assigned to him by God  of the Gospel, there is no space for any nirvana, apathy, or resignation.  Instead, there is a great challenge to perfect creation - be it oneself, be it the world. 

The essential joy of creation is, in turn, completed by the joy of salvation, by the joy of redemption... Salvation not only confronts evil in each of its existing forms in this world but proclaims victory over evil.  'I have conquered the world,' says Christ (Jn 16:33)


Therefore the cause of our joy is to give us the strength to defeat evil and to embrace the divine filiation which constitutes the essence of the Good News.  God gives this power to humankind through Christ.

The work of redemption is to elevate the work of creation to a new level. Creation is permeated with a redemptive sanctification, even a divinization.  … In this realm the destructive power of sin is defeated.  Indestructible life, revealed in the Resurrection of Christ, 'swallows,' so to speak, death.

Because the Pope is a witness of Christ and a minister of the Good News, he is a man of joy and a man of hope, a man of the fundamental affirmation of the value of existence, the value of creation and of hope in the future life.  …the joy of the victory over evil does not obfuscate - it actually intensifies - the realistic awareness of the existence of evil in the world and in every man.

The Gospel teaches us to call good and evil by name, but it also teaches: 'Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good' (Rom 12:21)

...every Christian must be keenly aware of the dangers to which man is subject in the world, in his temporal future, and in this final, eternal, eschatological future. … And it is precisely from this struggle for the victory of good in man and in the world that the need for prayer arises. 

In his concern for all the churches every day the Pontiff must open his prayer, his thought, hisheart to the entire world... … called to a universal prayer in which the concern for all the churches permits him to set forth before God all the joys and hopes as well as the griefs and anxieties that the church shares with humanity today.

the year 2000 marks a kind of challenge. We must look at the immensity of good... from the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word and, at the same time, not lose sight of the mystery of sin, which is continually expanding. …'Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more' (Rom 5:20)

This profound truth... shows how necessary prayer is for the world and for the Church, because in the end it constitutes the easiest way of making God and His redeeming love present in the world.

All of us are 'children of the promise' (Gal 4:28) 'Take courage, I have conquered the world' (says Christ, Jn 16:33)  But he also asked: 'When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? (Lk 18:8). This is the source of the missionary dimension of the prayer of the Church and of the Pope. 


The Church prays that everywhere the work of salvation will be accomplished through Christ… This mission constitutes... the essence of the Church. … pray for vocations...


The Church prays for the suffering.  Suffering, in fact, is always a great test not only of physical strength but also of spiritual strength.  …'completing the sufferings of Christ' (Col 1:24) … it is  a cry for the victory of good even through evil, through suffering, through every wrong and human injustice.

The Church prays for the dead...   revelation of the Resurrection.  In this prayer Christ Himself bears witness to the life and immortality, to which God calls every human being.

Prayer is a search for God, but it is also a revelation of God. Through prayer God reveals Himself as Creator and Father, as Redeemer and Savior, as the Spirit who 'scrutinizes everything, even the depth of God' (1 Cor 2:10), and above all 'the secrets of human hears' (Ps 43 [44]:22)

Through prayer God reveals Himself above all as Mercy - that is, Love that goes out to those whoa re suffering., Love that sustains, uplifts, and invites us to trust.

A person who prays professes such a truth and in a certain sense makes God, who is merciful Love, present in the world.





Does God Really Exist?
From a human perspective, can (and how can) one come to the conclusion that God really exists?
p.27

Your question ultimately concerns Pascal's distinction between the Absolute - that is, the God of the philosophers (the rationalist libertins) - and the God of Jesus Christ; and, prior to Him, the God of the Patriarchs - from Abraham to Moses.  Only the God of Jesus Christ is the living God. 

The God of the philosophers - is the fruit of human thought, of human speculation, and capable of saying something valid about God. In the end, all rationalist arguments follow the path indicated in the Book of Wisdom and the Letter to the Romans - passing from the visible world to the invisible.

Aristotle and Plato... Thomas Aquinas...Augustine... For Christians, the philosophical Absolute, considered as the First Being or Supreme Good, did not have great meaning.  Why engage in philosophical speculations about God, they asked themselves, if the living God has spoken, not only by way of the Prophets but also through His own Son?  


...Philosopy itself, in the Fathers, ends up in theology.

St. Thomas, however, did not abandon the philosophers' approach.  He began his Summa Theologica with the question 'And Deus sit?' -'does God exist?'... this question has proved to be very useful... has reverberated throughout a highly developed Western civilization...  its initial question persists and continues...

Guadium et Spes: 'In truth, the imbalances existing in the modern world are linked to a more profound imbalance found in the heart of man. many elements conflict with each other in man's inner struggle.  … since he is weak and sinful, he often does what he detests and not what he desires... causes him to suffer an inner division, which is the source of so many and such grievous disagreements in society...


With all of this...there is an
ever-increasing number of people who ask themselves or who feel more keenly the most essential questions: What is man?  What is the meaning of suffering, of evil, of death, which persist despite all progress? ...What will there be after this life?


Christ... continuously gives to man through His Spirit the light and the strength to respond to his higher destiny.  Nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.  The Church also believes that the key, the center, and the purpose of all of human history, is found in its Lord and Master' (Gaudium et Spes 10)


Questioning God's existence is intimately united with the purpose of human existence.  Not only is it a question of intellect; it is also a question of the will, even a question of the human heart. 


 One must, it is true, applaud Etienne Gilson when he agrees with St. Thomas that the intellect is the most marvelous of God's creations, but that does not mean that we must give in to a unilateral rationalism.  St Thomas celebrates all the richness and complexity of each created being, and especially of the human being. It is not good that his thought has been set aside in the post - conciliar period,... the master of philosophical and theological universalism.  His quinque viae - that is, his 'five ways' that lead toward a response to the question 'An Deus sit?' - Should be read. 


"Proof": Is It Still Valid?
Is this kind of thinking, however, still relevant today for the man who asks himself about God, His existence, His essence?
p. 32

The Positivist mentality, which developed aggressively between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, is, in a certain sense, fading today.  Contemporary man has rediscovered the sacred, even if he does not always know how to identify it.

Positivism … is one of those schools of suspicion that the modern era has seen grow and prosper.  ...Is man truly capable of knowing something beyond what he sees with his eyes or hears with his ears?  Does some kind of knowledge other than the strictly empirical exist? Is the human capacity for reason completely subject to the senses and internally directed by the laws of mathematics...? 

… in the positivist perspective, concepts such as God or the soul simply lose meaning.  In terms of sensory experience, in fact, nothing corresponds to God or the soul.  

The fact that human knowledge is primarily a sensory knowledge surprises no one. … "nothing is in the intellect that was not first in the senses".  Nevertheless, the limits of these 'senses' are not exclusively sensory....  

Man not only knows colors, tones, and forms; he also knows objects globally -  - for example,  not only all the parts that comprise the object "man", but also man in himself (as a person).    He knows, therefore, extrasensory truths, or in other words, the transempirical.  In addition, it is not possible to affirm that when something is transempirical it ceases to be empirical. 

It is therefore possible to speak from a solid foundation about human experience, moral experience, or religious experience,  
...also finds good and evil, truth and beauty, and God.  
God Himself certainly is not an object of human empiricism; "No one has ever seen God" (Jn 1:18).  

If God is a knowable object (as in Book of Wisdom/Letter to the Romans) - He is such on the basis of man's experience both of the visible world and of his interior word.  

… Man recognizes himself as an ethical being, capable of acting according to criteria of good and evil, not only those of profit and pleasure.  He also recognizes himself as a religious being, capable of putting himself in contact with God.  Prayer - is in a certain sense the first verification of such a reality.  

Contemporary thought.. recognizing … the value of metaphorical and symbolic language - hermeneutics,... presents the truth about man and the world from new angles.



In as much as positivism distances us - excludes us- from a more global understanding, hermeneutics , which explores the meaning of symbolic language, permits us to rediscover the more global understanding, and even... deepen it.  …without intending to deny the capacity of reason to form true, conceptual propositions about God and the truths of faith. 

...the philosophy of religion is very important - Mircea Eliade... 

One cannot think adequately about man without reference, which for man is constitutive, to God.  St. Thomas defined this as actus essendi  (essential act) ...of the philosophy of existence. ...of anthropological experience. 


The philosophers of dialogue (Buber, Levinas) have contributed greatly to this experience… but the path passes not so much through being and existence (Aquinas) as through people and their meeting each other, through the 'I' and the "Thou.'  This is a fundamental dimension of man's existence, which is always a coexistence. ...Where did the philosophers of dialogue learn this? ...from their experience of the Bible. 

In the sphere of the everyday, man's entire life is one of 'coexistence' - 'thou' and 'I' and also in the sphere of the absolute and definitive: "I and 'THOU." 

The biblical tradition revolves around this 'THOU," who is first the God of Abraham...and then the God of Jesus Christ and the apostles, the God of our faith.

Our faith is profoundly anthropological, rooted constitutively in coexistence, in the community of God's people, and in communion with this eternal 'THOU.' Such coexistence is essential to our Judeo-Christian tradition and comes from God's initiative.   This initiative is connected with and leads to creation ...and is "the eternal election of man in the Word who is the Son" (Eph1:14). 






If God Exists Why Is He Hiding?
Why doesn't He reveal Himself more clearly? Why doesn't He give everyone more tangible and accessible proof of His existence?...playing hide-and-seek with His creatures?...Wouldn't it be simpler if His existence were evident?
p.37



These questions … do not refer to St. Thomas or Augustine, or to the great Judeo Christian tradition.  These questions stems another source one that is purely rationalist, one that is characteristic of modern philosophy...which begins with Descartes, who split thought from existence and identified existence with reason itself: 'I think, therefore I am.' 

 ...How different from the approach of St. Thomas - for whom it is not thought which determines existence, but existence, 'esse,' which determines thought! I think the way I think because I am that which I am - a creature - and because He is He who is, the absolute uncreated Mystery.  If he were not Mystery, there would be no need for Revelation, or, more precisely, there would be no need for God to reveal Himself.

Your questions would only be legitimate if man, with his created intellect and within the limits of his own subjectivity, could overcome the entire distance that separates creation from the Creator, the contingent and not necessary being from the Necessary Being.




God's self-revelation comes about in a special way by his 'becoming man.'  
great temptation is to make the classical reduction of that which is divine to that which is human (Feuerbach) 
- the challenge comes from God Himself, since He really became man in His Son and was born of the Virgin.  It is precisely in this birth, and then through the Passion, the Cross, and the Resurrection that the self-revelation of God in the history of man reached its zenith - the revelation of the invisible God in the visible humanity of Christ.

The apostles asked, "Show us the Father/?" (Jn 14:8)  "
How can you say, Show us the Father? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? ...or else, believe because of the works themselves... The Father and I are one' (Jn 14:9-11; 10:30)


Could God go further in His stopping down, in His drawing near to man, thereby expanding the possibilities of our knowing Him?  In truth, it seems that he has gone as far as possible.  He could not go further. In a certain sense He has gone too far. 

...Man was no longer able to tolerate such closeness, and thus the protests began.
  First...the Synagogue and then Islam.  Neither can accept a God who is so human.  "It is not suitable to speak of God in this way," they protested.  "he must remain absolutely transcendent... Majestic full of mercy, certainly, but not to the point of paying for the  faults of His own creatures, for their sins."

From one point of view it is right to say that God revealed too much of Himself to man... His intimate life; He revealed Himself in His Mystery.  He was not mindful of the fact that such an unveiling would in a certain way obscure Him in the eyes of man, because man is not capable of withstanding an excess of the Mystery. He does not want to be pervaded and overwhelmed by it.





Is Jesus the Son of God?
How does one maintain the unprecedented certainty that this Jew condemned to death in an obscure province is the Son of God, of one being with the Father?
p.42

St. Paul is profoundly aware  that C
hrist is absolutely original and absolutely unique.  If He were only a wise man like Socrates, if He were a 'prophet' like Muhammad, if He were 'enlightened' like Buddha, without any doubt He would not be what He is.  He is the one mediator between God and humanity.
 

He is mediator because He is both God and man.  He holds within Himself the entire intimate world of divinity, the entire Myster of the Trinity, and the mystery both of temporal life and of immortality.  He is true man.  In Him the divine is not confused with the human.  There remains something essentially divine.



But at the same time Christ is so human! Thanks to this, the entire world of men, the entire history of humanity, finds in Him its expression before God.  And not before a distant, unreachable God, but before a God that is in Him - that indeed is He.  This is not found in any other religion, much less in any philosophy.

Christ is unique! Unlike Muhammad... more than just promulgate principles of religious discipline... ..not simply a wise man as was Socrates... Less still … Buddha, with his denial of all that is created. 


 He is the eternal witness to the Father and to the love that the Father has had for His creatures from the beginning. The Creator, from the beginning, saw a multitude of good in creation; He saw it especially in man, made in His image and likeness.  He saw this good in His incarnate Son.

The good would be confirmed at the Resurrection, which is the beginning of a new creation, the discovery of all creation in God, of the final destiny of all creatures... God will be "all in all" (1 Cor 15:28)

From the beginning Christ has been at the center of the faith and life of the Church, and also at the center of her teaching and theology.  (1st Councils..) ...All of the councils from the first millennium revolve around the Mystery of the Holy Trinity, including the procession of the Holy Spirit, but at their roots, all are Christological. ...Christ has been at the center of the faith and life of Christians... 


The faith progressively Christianized the ancient world.  ...Christ, God and man, did not cease to be the center of the church's life, witness, worship, and liturgy, even when the threat of Arianism later emerged.  It could be said that from the very beginning there was a Christological focus in Christianity. 

Above all, this is true of the faith and the living tradition of the Church. A remarkable expression of it is found in Marian devotion and in Mariology: A Marian dimension and Mariology in the Church are simply another aspect of the Christological focus.


Despite some common aspects, Christ does not resemble Muhammad or Socrates or Buddha.  He is totally original and unique. 


..the Apostles' Creed is the expression of the faith of Peter and of the whole Church.  Then beginning in the 4th century the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed ...enriched that teaching thanks to the increased awareness which the Church gained as she progressively entered into Greek culture and more clearly realized the need for ways of presenting her doctrine which would be adequate and convincing in that cultural context.


At Nicaea and Constantinople it was affirmed that Jesus Christ was 'the Only-begotten Son of God.  born of the Father before all ages...
Begotten, not make, of one being with the Father; by Whom all things were made' (Nicene Creed). 


These formulations are not simply the fruit of Greek culture; they come directly from the apostolic heritage.  ...first of all in Paul and John.
  
Paul's Christology is extraordinarily rich. His starting point... the gates of Damascus... with the eyes of his soul he saw the whole truth about the risen Christ.  he then expressed this truth in his Letters.

The word of the Nicene Creed are nothing other than the reflection of Paul's doctrine. ...also the heritage of John... in the Prologue of his Gospels  (Jn 1:1-18) 

...John  has greater qualifications as a witness than does Paul... [but] John wrote after Paul. Therefore, it is above all in the writing of Paul that one must search for the first expressions of the faith... and also in Luke, who was a follower of Paul.

The Christology of the New Testament is "explosive."  The Fathers, the great Scholastics, the theologians of the ensuing centuries did nothing other than return, always with renewed wonder, to the heritage they had received, in order to grow in a deeper understanding of it. 

...my first encyclical on the Redeemer of man (Redemptor Hominis, Oct 16, 1978) … I was actually carrying its contents within me. I had only to 'copy" from memory and experience...   They encyclical aims to be a great hymn of joy for the fact that man has been redeemed through Christ - redeemed in spirit and in body.  
(this redemption of the body -in Wed. Papal Audiences: "Male and Female He created them."... and redeemed them.)




What Has Become of the "History of Salvation"?

Why does the 'history of salvation' (as Christians refer to it) appear so complicated?  In order to pardon us and to save us, did a God who is a loving Father really need to sacrifice cruelly His own Son?
p. 50


Lets begin by looking at the history of European thought after Descartes... he marks the beginning of a new era in the history of European thought... who inaugurated the great anthropocentric shift in philosophy. 'I think, therefore I am,' as previously mentioned, is the motto of modern rationalism. 


The author of Meditationes de Prima Philosophia with his ontological proofs, distanced us from the philosophy of existence, and also from the traditional approaches of St. Thomas which lead to God who is 'autonomous existence'... By making subjective consciousness absolute, Descartes moves instead toward pure consciousness of Absolute, which is pure thought.  Such an Absolute is not autonomous existence, but rather autonomous thought.  Only that which corresponds to human thought makes sense.  The objective truth of this thought is not as important as the fact that something exists in human consciousness. 


We find ourselves on the threshold of modern immanentism and subjectivism. ...He turns his back on metaphysics and concentrates on the philosophy of knowledge. Kant is the most notable representative of this movement.


It is difficult not to acknowledge that he [Descartes] created the climate in which, in the modern era, such an estrangement became possible. 

Infact, about 150 years after Descartes, all that was fundamentally Christian in the tradition of European thought had already been pushed aside.  This was the time of the Enlightenment in France, when pure rationalism held sway. The French Revolution, during the reign of terror, knocked down altars... On the basis of this, there was a proclamation of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.  The spiritual patrimony and, in particular, the moral patrimony of  Christianity were thus torn from their evangelical foundation. In order to restore Christianity to its full vitality, it is essential that these return to that foundation. 

Nevertheless, the process of turning away from the God of the Fathers, from the God of Jesus Christ, from the gospel, and from the Eucharist did not bring about a rupture with a God who exists outside of the world (Deists)… the God of the deists was always present... however, is decidedly a God outside of the world.  To a mentality shaped by a naturalistic consciousness of the world, a God present in the world appeared useless; similarly, a God working through man turned out to be useless to modern knowledge, to the modern science of man, which examines the workings of the conscious and the subconscious.  The rationalism of the Enlightenment put to one side the true God - in particular, God the Redeemer. 

The consequence was that man was supposed to live [and act] by his reason alone, as if God did not exist.  Not only was it necessary to leave God out of the objective knowledge of the world, since the existence of a Creator or of Providence was in no way helpful to science, it was also necessary to act as if God did not exist, as if God were not interested in the world. The rationalism of the Enlightenment was able to accept a God outside of the world primarily because it was an unverifiable hypothesis.  It was crucial, however that such a God be expelled from the world. 





The Centrality of Salvation
How does this tie with the question I asked about the "history of salvation"?
p.54

With such a way of thinking and acting rationalism of the enlightenment strikes at the heart of every Christian soteriology that is theological reflection on salvation and of redemption. “God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).


According to the enlightenment mentality the world does not need God’s love. the world is self-sufficient and God intern is not above all love. If anything he is intellect and intellect that eternally knows. No one needs his intervention in the world that exists, that is self-sufficient that is transparent to human knowledge that is ever more free of mysteries thanks to scientific research... The demigod of modern technology. this is the world that must make man happy.

Jesus makes us understand that the world is not the source of man’s ultimate happiness rather it can become the source of his ruin. This world which appears to be a great workshop in which knowledge is developed by man... this world is not capable of making man happy.

When Christ speaks of the love that the Father has for the world, He merely echoes the first affirmation in the Book of Genesis “God saw how good it was... he found it very good” (genesis 1:12-31). But this affirmation in no way constitutes the absolute assurance of salvation.  The world is not capable of making man happy.  It is not capable of saving him from evil in all of its types and forms... This world with its riches and it’s wants needs to be saved to be redeemed.

This world is not able to freeman from suffering... from death. the entire world is subject to “precariousness” as Saint Paul says in the letters to the Romans.... Immortality is not part of this world. It can come to men exclusively from God. this is why Christ speaks of God‘s love that expresses itself in the offering of his only Son so that man “might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn3:16) Eternal life can be given to men only by God. It can be only His gift. Creation- and men together with it- is subject of “futility” (Rom 8:20)

"God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him" (Jn 3:17)  The world that the son of man found when he became man deserved condemnation because of the sin that had dominated all of history, beginning with the fall of our first parents. This is another point that is absolutely unacceptable to post -Enlightenment thought. It refuses to accept the reality of sin and in particular, it refuses to accept original sin.

When during my last visit to Poland, I chose the Decalogue and the commandment of love as a theme for the homiles, all the Polish followers of the "enlightened agenda" were upset.  For such people, the Pope becomes persona non grata when he tries to convince the world of human sin.   ...the Holy Spirit who “will convince the world in regard to sin” (Jn16:8).   What else can the church do? Nevertheless convincing the world of the existence of sin is not the same as condemning it for sining. “God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him.” (Jn3:17)  

Convincing the world of sin means creating the conditions for its salvation. 

Awareness of our own sinfulness, including that which is inherited, is the first condition for salvation; the next is the confession of this sin before God, who desires only receive this confession so that He can save man.  To save means to embrace and lift up with redemptive love, with love that is always greater than any sin.  

The history of salvation is very simple.  It is a history that unfolds within the earthly history of humanity, beginning with the first Adam, through the revelation of the second Adam, Jesus Christ... ending with the ultimate fulfillment of the history of the world in God, when he will be "all in all" (1 Cor 15:28).

...this history embraces the life of every man. …it is entirely contained in the parable of the prodigal son, or in the words of Christ when He addresses the adulteress: "Neither do I condemn you.  Go [and] from now on do not sin anymore' (Jn 8:11).

The history of salvation is synthesized in the fundamental observation of God's great intervention in the history of human kind... its culmination in the Paschal Mystery - the Passion, Death, Resurrection ,and Ascension of Christ to heaven - and is completed at Pentecost...    

 This history, while it reveal the redemptive will of God, also reveals the mission of the Church. It is the history of every individual and the entire human family, created in the beginning and then re-created in Christ and in the Church.  (see St. Augustine's De Civitate Dei)

The history of salvation continues to offer new inspiration for interpreting the history of humanity.  … the most stimulating of themes (as in Vatican II Council). 

The history of salvation... also confronts the problem of the meaning of man's existence... it is both history and metaphysics... the most integral form of theology, the theology of all the encounters between God and the world. (see Gaudium et Spec)




Why Is There So Much Evil in the World?
How to continue to trust in a God who is supposed to be a merciful Father, in a God who - as the New Testament reveals - is meant to be Love itself, when suffering , injustice, sickness, and death seem to dominate the larger history of the world as well as our smaller daily lives?
p. 60

The Cross remains constant while the world turns. 


As I stated earlier, we find ourselves at the center of the history of salvation.  ...that [evil] which is the source of recurring doubt not only in regard to the goodness of God but also in regard to His very existence.  How could God have permitted so many wars, concentration camps, the Holocaust? 

Is the God who allows all this still truly Love, as St. John probliams in hif First Letter?  Indeed, is He just with respect to His creatures?  Doesn't He place too many burdens on the shoulders of individuals? ...incurably ill people... handicaped children... lives completely denied ordinary happiness on this earth that comes from love, marriage, and family.  

The history of salvation is also the history of man's continual judgement of God. ...Book of Job is the paradigm of this judgment.  There is also the intervention of the evil spirit, who, with even greater shrewdness than man, would judge not only man but God's actions in human history. ...confirmed in the Book of Job. 

Scandalum Curcis (The Scandal of the Cross) ... Was putting His Son to death on the Cross necessary for the salvation of humanity? 

 Could it have been different? Could God have justified Himself before human history, so full of suffering, without placing Christ's Cross at the center of that history? … But God, who besides being Omnipotence is Wisdom and - Love, desires to justify Himself to mankind.  He is not the Absolute that remains outside of the world, indifferent to human suffering.  He is Emmanuel, God-with-us, a God who shares man's lot and participates in his destiny.   This brings to light another inadequacy, the completely false image of God which the Enlightenment accepted uncritically.... a step backward,  not in the direction of  a better knowledge of God and the world, but in the direction of misunderstanding them. 

God is not someone who remains only outside of the world... His wisdom and omnipotence are placed, by free choice, at the service of creation.  If suffering is present in the history of humanity, one understands why His omnipotence was  manifested in the omnipotence of humiliation on the Cross.  The scandal of the Cross remains the key to the interpretation of the great mystery of suffering, which is so much a part of the history of mankind. 

...the crucified Christ is proof of God's solidarity with man in his suffering.  God places Himself on the side of man.  He does so in a radical way: 'He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:7-8)  Everything is contained in this statement. 






Why Does God Tolerate Suffering?
Faith affirms that God is omnipotent.  Why, then, hasn't he eliminated - and does He persist in the not eliminating - suffering in the world he created?  

p. 64

Yes, in a certain sense one could say that confronted with our human freedom, God decided to make Himself "impotent.'" And one could say that God is paying for the great gift bestowed upon a being He created "in his image, after his likeness" (Gn 1:26) Before this gift, He remains consistent, and places Himself before the judgement of man, before an illegitimate tribunal which asks Him provocative questions:  "Then you are a king? (Jn 18:37)…

"For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth" (Jn 18:37).  But then: 'What is truth?" (Jn 18:38), and here ended the judicial proceeding, that tragic proceeding in which man accused God before the tribunal of his own history, and in which the sentence handed down did not conform to the truth. Pilate says: "I find no guilt in him" (Jn 18:38), and a second later he orders: "Take him yourselves and crucify him!" (Jn 19:6).  In this way he washes his hands of the issue and returns the responsibility to the violent crowd.

Therefore, the condemnation of God by man is not based on the truth, but on arrogance, on an underhanded conspiracy. 

Isn't this the truth about the history of humanity, the truth about our century? … repeated in many courts of oppressive totalitarian regimes... in the parliaments of democracies where, for example, laws are regularly passed condemning to death a person not yet born?  

God is always on the side of the suffering.  His omnipotence is manifested precisely in the fact that He freely accepted suffering.  He could have chosen not to do so.   He could have chosen to demonstrate His omnipotence even at the moment of the Crucifixion.  In fact, it was proposed to Him: "let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe" (Mk 15:32).  But He did not accept that challenge.  The fact that He stayed on the Cross until the end, the fact that on the Cross he could say, as do all who suffer: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  (Mk 15:34), has remained in human history the strongest argument.  If the agony on the Cross had not happened, the truth that God is Love would have been unfounded. 

Yes! God is Love and precisely for this He gave His Son, to reveal Himself completely as Love.  Christ is the One who "loved...  to the end" (Jn 13:1) "To the end" means to the last breath.  "To the end"  means accepting all the consequences of man's sin, taking it upon Himself.  This happened exactly as prophet Isiah affirmed: "it was our infirmities that he bore,... We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way;  But the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all" (Is 53:4-6).

The Man of Suffering is the revelation of that Love which "endures all things" (1 Cor 13:7), of that love which is the "greatest" (1 Cor 13:13).  It is the revelation not only that God is Love but also the One who "pours out love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit" (Rom 5:5).  

In the end, before Christ Crucified, the man who shares in redemption will have the advantage over the man who sets himself up as an unbending judge of God's actions in his own life as well as in that of all humanity. 

Thus we find ourselves at the center of the history of salvation.  The judgement of God becomes a judgment of man.  The divine realm and the human realm of this event meet, cross, and overlap.  … the difficulty and the challenge of understanding the meaning of Calvary is so great that God Himself wanted to warn the apostles of all the would have to happen between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. 

When the archangel Gabriel announced to the Virgin of Nazareth the birth of the Son, revealing that His Reign would be unending (Lk 1:33), it was certainly difficult to foresee that those words augured such a future;  that the Reign of God in the world would come about at such a cost;  that from that moment the history of  the salvation of all humanity would have to follow such a path. 

The event of Calvary is a historical fact.  Nevertheless, it is not  limited in time and space.  It goes back into the past, to the beginning, and opens toward the future until the end of history.   It encompasses all places and times and all of mankind.  

Christ is the expectation and simultaneously the fulfillment.  "There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved" (Acts 4:12)

Christianity is a religion of salvation - a soteriological religion, to use the theological term.  Christian soteriology focuses on the Paschal Mystery.  In order to hope for salvation from God, man must stop beneath Christ's Cross.  Then... in front of the empty tomb and listen, like the women of Jerusalem: "he is not here, for he has been raised" (Mt 28:6).  Contained within the Cross and the Resurrection is the certainty that God saves man, that He saves him through Christ, through His Cross and His Resurrection. 




What Does "To Save" Mean?
...What does it mean "to save"?  What is this "salvation" which, as you say, is at the heart of Christianity? 
p.69


To save means to liberate from evil.

This does not refer onto social evils… to disease, catastrophes... and everything that has been considered a disaster in the history of humanity. 

To save means to liberate from radical, ultimate evil.  Death itself is no longer that kind of evil, if followed by the Resurrection.  And the Resurrection comes about through the work of Christ.  Through the work of the Redeemer, death ceases to be an ultimate evil; it becomes subject to the power of life. 

The world does not have such power.  … does not have the power to liberate man from death.  And therefore the world cannot be a source of salvation for man.  Only God saves, and He saves the whole of humanity in Christ.  The very name Jesus, Jeshua ("God who saves"), bespeaks this salvation.  ... "Was it not I, the Lord, besides whom there is no other God? There is no just and saving God but me" (Is 45:21).

To save means to liberate from radical evil.  This evil is not only man's progressive decline with the passage of time and...death.  An even more radical evil is God's rejection of man, that is, eternal damnation as the consequence of man's rejection of God.

Damnation is the opposite of salvation.  Both are associated with the destiny of man to live eternally.  Both presuppose the immortality of the human being.  Temporal death cannot destroy man's destiny of eternal life. 

And what is this eternal life?  It is happiness that comes from union with God. Christ affirms:  "Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ" (Jn 17:3).  Union with God is realized in the vision of the Divine Being "face to face" (1 Cor 13:12), a vision called "beatific" because it carries with it the ultimate attainment of man's aspiration to truth.  … the vision of God "face to face" allows enjoyment of the absolute fullness of truth.  In this way man's aspiration to truth is ultimately satisfied. 

Salvation, however, is not reducible to this.  In knowing God "face to face", man encounters the absolute fullness of good. … What we are speaking of here is not union with the idea of good [platonic], but rather union with Good itself. God is this Good.  … Christ responded [to the young man]:  "Why do you call me good?  No one is good but God alone" (Mk 10:17-18). 

As the fullness of Good, God is the fullness of life. Life is in Him and from Him.  This is life that has no limits in time or space.  It is "eternal life," participation in the life of God Himself, which comes about in the eternal communion of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  … the Holy Trinity... invites us to receive that life.  In Jesus Christ man is called to such a participation and led toward it. 

Eternal Life is exactly this.  The Death of Christ gives life, because it allows believers to share in His Resurrection.  The Resurrection is the revelation of life. … [Lazarus story]:  "I am the Resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die" (Jn 11:21, 23-26)  

… we are called to participate in life, which has been revealed through the Resurrection of Christ. 

According to St. Matthew, this resurrection of the body is to be preceded by a judgment passed upon the works of charity, fulfilled or neglected.  As a result of this judgement, the just are destined to eternal life.  There is a destination to eternal damnation as well, which consists in the ultimate rejection of God, the ultimate break of the communion with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Here, it is not so much God who rejects man, but man who rejects God. 

...we can never forget that God "wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2:4).

Happiness springs from the knowledge of the truth, from the vision of God face to face, from sharing in His life.  This happiness is so profoundly a part of man's deepest aspiration that the words just cited above... seem fully justified... 

Christianity is a religion of salvation.  The salvation in question is that of the Cross and the Resurrection.  God, who desires that man "may live" (Ez 18:23), draws near to him through the death of His Son in order to reveal that life to which he is called in God Himself.  … Everyone... must stop before the Cross of Christ.

Will he be willing to accept the truth of the Paschal Mystery or not?  Will he have faith?

This Mystery of salvation is an event which has already taken place.  God has embraced all men by the Cross and the Resurrection of His Son...  the Paschal Mystery is by now grafted onto the history of humanity, onto the history of every individual. 

Christian soteriology is a soteriology of the fullness of life.  Not only is it a soteriology of the truth disclosed in Revelation, but at the same time it is also a soteriology of love... of Divine Love.

Love, above all, possesses a saving power.  … greater than that of mere knowledge of the truth: "So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor 13:13).  Salvation through love is, at the same time, a sharing in the fullness of truth, and also in the fullness of beauty.  All this is in God.    All these "treasures of life and of holiness: (Lit SH of Jesus) God has laid open to man in Jesus Christ.

The fact that Christianity is a religion of salvation is expressed in the sacramental life of the Church. Christ, who came "so that they might have life and have it more abundantly" (Jn 10:10) discloses for us the sources fo this lfie… through the Paschal Mystery of His death and Resurrection.  Linked … are Baptism, The Eucharist...The Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The fact that Christianity is a religion of salvation is also expressed in worship... 

The liturgy of the Eastern Church is fundamentally centered on the Resurrection.
The Western Church, while maintaining the primacy of the Resurrection, has gone further in the direction of the Passion.  The veneration of Christ's Cross has shaped the history of Christian piety and has inspired the greatest saints … 

There is no Christian holiness without devotion to the Passion, just as there is no holiness without the centrality of the Paschal Mystery. 

The Eastern Church attributes great importance of the Feast of the Transfiguration.  .. the Saints of the Catholic Church often received the stigmata…  Thus over the span of two thousand years, there has come about this great synthesis of life and of holiness, of which Christ is always the center. 

For all its orientation toward eternal life, toward that happiness which is found in God Himself, Christianity, and especially Western Christianity, never became a religion indifferent to the world.  It has always been open to the world, to its questions, to its anxieties, to its hopes.  …particular expression in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,  Gaudium et Spes…  John XXIII.

Aggiornamento (updating) does not only refer to the renewal of the Church; nor only to the unification of Christians, "that the world may believe" (Jn 17:21).  It is also, and above all, God's saving activity on behalf of the world; saving activity centered on this world, a world which is passing away, but which is constantly oriented toward eternity, toward the fullness of life. … The Church is thus confirmed in all aspects of human life, temporal life.  The Church is the Body of Christ, a living body which gives life to everything. 


Why So Many Religions?  
p. 77

But if God who is in heaven - and who saved and continues to save the world - is One and only One and is He who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, why has He allowed so many religions?

Why did He make the search for the truth so arduous, in the midst of a forest of rituals, of beliefs, of revelations, of faiths which have always thrived - and still do today - throughout the world?


You speak of many religions.  Instead I will attempt to show the common fundamental element and the common root of these religions.

The Council defined the relationship of the Church to non-Christian religions in a specific document that begins with the words "Nostra Aetate" ("in our time")… that authentically hands on the Traditions, faithful to the thought of the earliest Fathers of the Church. 

From the beginning, Christian Revelations has viewed the spiritual history of man as including, in some way, all religions, thereby demonstrating the unity of humankind with regard to the eternal and ultimate destiny of man.

The Church sees the promotion of this unity as one of its duties: 
             "There is only one community and its consists of all peoples.  They have only one origin, since God inhabited the entire earth with the whole human race.  And they have one ultimate destiny, God, whose providence, goodness, and plan for salvation extend to all...  Men turn to various religions to solve mysteries of the human condition, which today, as in earlier times, burden people's hearts: the nature of man; the meaning and purpose of life; good and evil; the origin and purpose of suffering; the way to true happiness; death; judgment and retribution after death; and finally, the ultimate ineffable mystery which is the origin and destiny of our existence.  From ancient times up to today all the various peoples have shared and continue to share an awareness of that enigmatic power that is present throughout the course of things and throughout the events of human life, and, in which, at times, even the Supreme Divinity or the Father is recognizable.  This awareness and recognition imbue life with an intimate religious sense.  Religions that are tied up with cultural progress strive to solve these issues with more refined concepts and a more precise language: (Nostra Aetate 1-2). 

Here the Council document brings us to the Far East - first of all to Asia, a continent where the Church's missionary activity, carried out since the times of the apostles, has borne, we must recognize, very modest fruit.  … only a small percentage of the population on what is the largest continent believes in Christ.

As yet the tradition of very ancient cultures, antedating Christianity, remains very strong in the East.  Even if faith in Christ reaches hearts and minds, the negative connotations associated with the image of life in Western society (the so-called Christian society) present a considerable obstacle of the acceptance of the Gospel.   Mahatma Gandhi, Indian and Hindu, pointed this out many times... He was disillusioned with the ways in which Christianity was expressed in the political and social life of nations.  Could a man who fought for the liberation of his great nation from colonial dependence accept Christianity in the same form as it had been imposed on his country by those same colonial powers?

The Second Vatican Council realized this difficulty.  This is why the document on the relations between the Church and Hinduism and other religions of the Far East is so important.  We read:
"In Hinduism men explore the divine mystery and express it through an endless bounty of myths and through penetrating philosophical insight.  They seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition, either by way of the ascetic life, profound meditation, or by taking refuge in God with love and trust.  The various schools of Buddhism recognize the radical inadequacy of this malleable world and teach a way by which men, with devout and trusting hearts, can become capable either of reaching a state of perfect liberation, or of attaining, by their own efforts or through higher help, supreme illuminations" (Nostra Aetate 2). 

Further along, the Council remarks that "The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions.  The Church has a high regard for those precepts and doctrines which, although differing on many points from that which the Church believes and propounds, often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men.  However, the Church proclaims, and is bound to proclaim that Christ is 'the way and the truth and the life' [Jn 14:6]. in whom men must find the fullness of religious life and in whom God has reconciled everything to Himself" (Nostra Aetate 2) 

The words of the Council recall the conviction, long rooted in the Tradition, of the existence of the so-called semina Verbi (seeds of the Word), present in all religions.  In the light of this conviction, the Church seeks to identify the semina Verbi present in the great traditions of the Far East, in order to trace a common path against the backdrop of the needs of the contemporary world. … a truly universal concern.  The Church is guided by the faith that God the Creator wants to save all humankind in Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and man, in as much as He is the Redeemer of all humankind.  The Paschal Mystery is equally available to all and, through it, the way to eternal salvation is also open to all.  

In another passage the Council says that the Holy Spirit works effectively even outside the visible structure of the Church (cf. Lumen Gentium 13), making use of these very semina Verbi, that constitute a kind of common soteriological root present in all religions. 

 I have been convinced of this on numerous occasions, both while visiting countries of the Far East and while meeting representatives of those religions... at Assisi... 

thus instead of marveling at the fact that Providence allows such a great variety of religions, we should be amazed at the number of common elements found within them.

… recall all the primitive religions, the animistic religions which stress ancestor worship... are particularly close to Christianity, … also find it easier to speak a common language.... a kind of preparation for the Christian faith in the Communion of the Saints, in which all believers - whether living or dead - form a single community,  a single body? ...the Communion of Saint is, ultimately, faith in Christ, who alone is the source of life and of holiness for all.  

(religions of the Far East)… possess the characteristics of a system.  They are systems of worship and also ethical systems, with a strong emphasis on good and evil. Certainly among these belong Chinese Confucianism and Taoism: Tao means eternal truth - something similar to the "Word" which is reflected in the action of man by means of truth and moral good.    The religion of the Far East have contributed greatly to the history of morality and culture, forming a national identity in the Chinese, Indians, Japanese, and Tibetans... The indigenous people of Australia … their ethnic and religious tradition is older than that of Abraham and Moses.

Christ came into the world for all these peoples.  He redeemed them all and has His own ways of reaching each of them in the present eschatological phase of salvation history.  In fact, in those regions, many accept Him and many more have an implicit faith in Him (cf. Heb 11:6)




Buddha?  

p. 84


...I would like to ask you to speak more fully on the subject of Buddhism.  Essentially - as you well know - it offers a "doctrine of salvation" that seems increasingly to fascinate many Westerners as an "alternative" to Christianity or as a sort of "complement" to it, as least in terms of certain ascetic and mystical techniques.  



Among the religions mentioned in the Council document Nostra Aetate, it is necessary to pay special attention to Buddhism, which from a certain point of view, like Christianity, is a religion of salvation.  Nevertheless...the doctrines of salvation in  Buddhism and Christianity are opposed.



The Dalai Lama... brings Buddhism to people of the Christian Wester, stirring up interest both in Buddhist spirituality and in its methods of praying.  …Today we are seeing a certain diffusion of Buddhism in the West. 


The Buddhist doctrine of salvation constitutes the central point, or rather the only point, of this system.  Nevertheless, both the Buddhist tradition and the methods deriving from it have an almost exclusively negative soteriology. 

The "enlightenment" experienced by Buddha comes down to the conviction that the world is bad, that it is the source of evil and of suffering for man.  To liberate oneself from this evil, one must free oneself from this world, necessitating a break with the ties that join us to external reality - ties existing in our human nature, in our psyche, in our bodies.  The more we are liberated from these ties, the more we become indifferent to what is in the world, and the more we are free from suffering, from the evil that has its source in the world.

Do we draw near to God in this way?  This is  not mentioned in the "enlightenment" conveyed by Buddha.  Buddhism in is large measure an "atheistic" system.  We do not free ourselves from evil through the good which comes from God; we liberate ourselves only through detachment from the world, which is bad.  The fullness of such a detachment is not union with God, but what is called nirvana, a state of perfect indifference with regard to the world.  To save oneself means, above all, to free oneself from evil by becoming indifferent to the world, which is the source of evil.  This is the culmination of the spiritual process.

At various times, attempts to link this method with the Christian mystics have been made - whether it is with those from northern Europe (Eckhart, Tauler, Suso, Ruysbroeck) or the later Spanish mystics (Saint Teresa of Avila, St. John of the cross).  but when St. John of the Cross, in the Ascent of Mount Carmel and in the Dark Night of the Soul, speaks of the need for purification, for detachment from the world of the senses, he does not conceive of that detachment as an end in itself.  "To arrive at what now you do not enjoy, you must go where you do not enjoy.   to reach what you do not know, you must go where you do not know.  To come into possession of what you do not have, you must go where now you have nothing" (Ascent of Mount Carmel, I.13.11).

This Doctor of the church does not merely propose detachment from the world.  He proposes detachment from the world in order to unite oneself to that which is outside of the world - by this I do not mean nirvana, but a personal God.  Union with Him comes about not only through purification, but through love.

Carmelite mysticism begins at the point where the reflections of Buddha end, together with his instructions for the spiritual life.  In the active an passive purification of the human soul, in those specific nights of the senses and the spirit, St. John of the cross sees, above all, the preparation necessary for the human soul to be permeated with the living flame of love.  And this is also the title of this major work - The Living Flame of Love. 

Therefore, despite similar aspects, there is a fundamental difference.   Christian mysticism from every period - beginning with the era of the Fathers of the Eastern and Western Church, to the great theologians of Scholasticism (such as Saint Thomas Aquinas), to the northern European mystics, to the Carmelite mystics - is not born of a purely negative "enlightenment."  It is not born of awareness of the evil which exists in man's attachment to the world through the senses, the intellect, and the spirit.

Instead, Christian mysticism is born of the Revelation of the living God.  This God opens Himself to union with man, arousing in him the capacity to be united with Him, especially by means of the theological virtues - faith, hope, and, above all, love.

Christian mysticism in every age up to our own - including the mysticism of marvelous men of action like Vincent de Paul, John Bosco, Maximillian Kolbe - has built up and continues to build up Christianity in its most essential element.  It also builds up the church as a community of faith, hope, and charity.  It builds up civilization, particularly "Western civilization," which is marked by a positive approach to the world, and which developed thanks to the achievements of science and technology, two branches of knowledge rooted both in the ancient Greek philosophical tradition and in Judeo-Christian Revelation.  The truth about God the Creator of the world and about Christ the Redeemer is a powerful force which inspires a positive attitude toward creation and provides a constant impetus to strive for its transformation and perfection.

To indulge in a negative attitude toward the world, in the conviction that it is only a source of suffering for man and that he therefore must break away from it, is negative not only because it is unilateral but also because it is fundamentally contrary tot he development of both man himself and the world, which the Creator has given and entrusted to man as his task.

"...the world which Christians believe has been created and is sustained by the Creator's love, a world enslaved by sin but liberated by the crucified and resurrected Christ in order to defeat evil, and destined, according to the divine plan, to be transformed and to reach its fulfillment" (Gaudium et Spes 2).

These words indicate how between Christianity and the religions of the Far East, in particular Buddhism, there is an essentially different way of perceiving the world.  For Christians, the world is god's creation, redeemed by Christ.  It is in the world that man meets God.  therefore he does not need to attain such an absolute detachment in order to find himself in the mystery of his deepest self.  For Christianity, it does not make sense to speak of the world as a "radical" evil, since at the beginning of the world we find God the Creator who loves Him creation, a God who "gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life" (Jn 3:16).

For this reason it is not inappropriate to caution those Christians who enthusiastically welcome certain ideas originating in the religious traditions of the Far East - for example, techniques and methods of meditation and ascetical practice.  In some quarters these have become fashionable, and are accepted rather uncritically.  First one should know one's own spiritual heritage well and consider whether it is right to set it aside lightly.

Recall... important document of the Congregation for the doctrine of the Faith "on certain aspects of Christian mediation" (10/15/1989).  Here we find a clear answer to the question "whether and how [Christian prayer] can be enriched by methods of meditation originating in different religions and cultures" (n.3).

A separate issue is the return of ancient gnostic ideas under the guise of the so-called New Age.  We cannot delude ourselves that this will lead toward a renewal of religion.  It is only a new way of practicing Gnosticism - that attitude of the spirit that, in the name of a profound knowledge of God, results in distorting His Word and replacing it with purely human words.  Gnosticism never completely abandoned the realm of Christianity.  Instead, it has always existed side by side with Christianity, sometimes taking the shape of a philosophical movement, but more often assuming the characteristics of a religion or para-religion in distinct, if not declared, conflict with all that is essentially Christian.

Muhammad?
p. 91

It is a different case when we come to these great monotheistic religions, beginning with Islam. … As a result of their monotheism, believers in Allah are particularly close to us. 

Whoever knows the Old and New Testament, and then reads the Koran, clearly sees the process by which it completely reduces Divine Revelation.  It is impossible not to note the movement away from what God said about Himself, first in the Old Testament through the Prophets, and then finally in the New Testament through His Son.  In Islam all the richness of God's self-revelation, which constitutes the heritage of the Old and New Testaments, has definitely been set aside. 

Some of the most beautiful names in the human language are given to the God of the Koran, but He is ultimately a God outside of the world, a God who is only Majesty, never Emmanuel, God-with-us.  Islam is not a religion of redemption.  There is not room for the Cross and the Resurrection.  Jesus is mentioned, but only as a prophet who prepares for the last prophet, Muhammad.  there is also mention of Mary, His Virgin Mother, but the tragedy of redemption is completely absent.  For this reason not only the theology but also the anthropology of Islam is very distant from Christianity.

Nevertheless, the religiosity of Muslims deserves respect.  It is impossible not to admire, for example, their fidelity to prayer.  … without caring about time or place, fall to their knees and immerse themselves in prayer remains a model for all those who invoke the true God, in particular for those Christians who, having deserted their magnificent cathedrals, pray only a little or not al all.  

The Council has also called for the church to have a dialogue with followers of the "prophet," and the Church has proceeded to do so.   We read in Nostra Aetate:  "... this sacred Council now urges all to forget the past and to work toward mutual understanding... otward the preservation and promotion of social justice, moral welfare, peace, and freedom for the benefit of all mankind"  (Nostra Aetate 3). 

...meetings for prayer held at Assisi, (esp. 1993), ...meetings in (Muslim) countries... the Pope was welcomed with great hospitality and was listened to with similar graciousness. 

The trip I made to Morrocco...with the young people at Casablanca Stadium (1985) was unforgettable.  The openness of the young people to the Pope's words was striking when he spoke of faith in the one God.  It was certainly an unprecedented event.

Nevertheless, concrete difficulties are not lacking.  In countries where fundamentalist movements come to power, human rights and the principle of religious freedom care unfortunately interpreted in a  very one-sided way - religious freedom comes to mean freedom to impose on all citizens the "true religion."  In these countries the situation of Christians is sometimes terribly disturbing.  Fundamentalists attitudes of this nature make reciprocal contacts very difficult.  All the same, the Church remains always open to dialogue and cooperation.