With the celebration of the Solemnity of Christ the King, that last Sunday of the current liturgical year (the liturgical New Years Day is this Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent), Pope Francis closed the “Year of Faith.” His homily for the day presents us with a series of themes that, at first glance, could be easily overlooked. In the following order Pope Francis talked about these subjects: Baptism and Christ as the center of creation and history
I found both of these movements to be especially timely. It is not always common for homilists to explore deeply the central themes of our faith. Yet, here is the pope highlighting some very important themes. At the core of faith itself is the unique relationship of each person to one another and to God through Christ in baptism. Pope Francis said:
[Benedict XVI] gave us an opportunity to rediscover the beauty of the journey of faith begun on the day of our Baptism, which made us children of God and brothers and sisters in the Church. A journey which has as its ultimate end our full encounter with God, and throughout which the Holy Spirit purifies us, lifts us up and sanctifies us, so that we may enter into the happiness for which our hearts long.
Like St. Augustine, who famously began his Confessions with the observation that “our hearts our restless until they rest in You, oh Lord,” Pope Francis sees in each and every person the intrinsic object and goal of human happiness — communion with God.
Yet, communion with God does not happen individually, it does not happen as one person makes some sort of personal pact with Christ as if nothing and no one else matters. As Karl Rahner insightfully noted, how we love God in this life is made most explicit and real in how we love our neighbors. Or, as the New Testament epistolary reminds us, how can we claim to love God whom we do not see when we do not love our brothers and sisters whom we do see?
This sense of communion in community ties well with the theme of Christ as the center of creation and history. “The Scripture readings proclaimed to us have as their common theme the centrality of Christ. Christ as the centre of creation, the centre of his people and the centre of history,” Pope Francis said.
That Christ is the center of creation is made most explicit in yesterday’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Colossians (1:12-20), which tells of the Christocentricity of God’s creative act and the plan from all eternity that God had to lovingly bring into creation all that is when nothing had to be. As such, Christ is the one who both inaugurates and brings to completion through the Spirit the creating and saving work of God. This doesn’t happen in a vacuum or from a control station somewhere far off. Instead, it is made immediately clear in the Incarnation, when God enters the very same creation lovingly brought into existence. As Pope Francis said, “Christ, the descendant of King David, is the “brother” around whom God’s people come together. It is he who cares for his people, for all of us, even at the price of his life. In him we are all one; united with him, we share a single journey, a single destiny.” By becoming one with us, the Word concretizes relationship and models for us what it means to be fully human according to God’s intention from all time.
At the close of this “Year of Faith,” we are invited to call to mind what “faith” means in the first place. Before anything else, faith is about relationship — relationship with God in and through relationship with our brothers and sisters along with the rest of creation. Faith is that relationship that begins with our creation, leads to our being drawn into the life of the Trinity in baptism, and comes to fuller expression in the way we care for one another. Faith, that for which we continuously seek better understanding in theological reflection, is about increasing our awareness of the God who is there, has been there, and will be there for us. Faith is about living out that relationship everyday in wherever we find ourselves.
For this reason, I think it’s fitting to look ahead to Sunday and the upcoming New Liturgical Year and continue living this “Year of Faith,” aiming to make every year and every day a time to live into our faith, which is first about relationship.