Saturday, March 17, 2007

Sacramentum Caritatis: Introduction - Food of Truth

As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to do a slow read of the new exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis, and will periodically post on sections in the order they appear. I am merely looking at this from a spiritual standpoint, since I am not a theologian. I just know that from what little I have read, I have been moved deeply. Pope Benedict's style works for me as he builds a foundation from the ground up, layer by layer. People often go after specific points that interest them and never go back and read the full document. I'm guilty of this and have promised myself - and God - that this is one document I will chew on very slowly.

I won't make a post on every paragraph so I encourage you to do your own slow read. Feel free to add any comments on those things I do cite.

I would like to start with paragraph 2: Food of Truth (emphasis mine with bold and/or red text)

The food of truth

2. In the sacrament of the altar, the Lord meets us, men and women created in God's image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:27), and becomes our companion along the way. In this sacrament, the Lord truly becomes food for us, to satisfy our hunger for truth and freedom. Since only the truth can make us free (cf. Jn 8:32), Christ becomes for us the food of truth. With deep human insight, Saint Augustine clearly showed how we are moved spontaneously, and not by constraint, whenever we encounter something attractive and desirable. Asking himself what it is that can move us most deeply, the saintly Bishop went on to say: "What does our soul desire more passionately than truth?" (2) Each of us has an innate and irrepressible desire for ultimate and definitive truth. The Lord Jesus, "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6), speaks to our thirsting, pilgrim hearts, our hearts yearning for the source of life, our hearts longing for truth. Jesus Christ is the Truth in person, drawing the world to himself. "Jesus is the lodestar of human freedom: without him, freedom loses its focus, for without the knowledge of truth, freedom becomes debased, alienated and reduced to empty caprice. With him, freedom finds itself." (3) In the sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus shows us in particular the truth about the love which is the very essence of God. It is this evangelical truth which challenges each of us and our whole being. For this reason, the Church, which finds in the Eucharist the very centre of her life, is constantly concerned to proclaim to all, opportune importune (cf. 2 Tim 4:2), that God is love.(4) Precisely because Christ has become for us the food of truth, the Church turns to every man and woman, inviting them freely to accept God's gift.

I want to zero-in on that sentence highlighted in red. Note the footnote number (3). Going back to the document and scrolling to the bottom of where references are listed, this quoted statement comes from Pope Benedict himself, as follows:

(3) Benedict XVI, Address to Participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (10 February 2006): AAS 98 (2006), 255.

What my eyes really focused on was the word "lodestar". There are two definitions at

  1. A star, especially Polaris, that is used as a point of reference.
  2. A guiding principle, interest, or ambition.

Do you see how good it can be when we encounter a word that we don't commonly use and it eventually grabs our attention. Just a simple understanding of this word gives real power to that statement by Pope Benedict.

It brings back a conclusion I made very shortly after I heard Pope Benedict speak to the Cardinals as they headed into Conclave: Jesus Christ: "The Measure of True Humanism". For days I was being pursued like a jackrabbit running from a hawk by these words:

How many winds of doctrine we have known in these last decades, how many ideological currents, how many fashions of thought? The small boat of thought of many Christians has often remained agitated by the waves, tossed from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, etc.

Every day new sects are born and we see realized what St. Paul says on the deception of men, on the cunning that tends to lead into error (cf. Ephesians 4:14). To have a clear faith, according to the creed of the Church, is often labeled as fundamentalism. While relativism, that is, allowing oneself to be carried about with every wind of "doctrine," seems to be the only attitude that is fashionable. A dictatorship of relativism is being constituted that recognizes nothing as absolute and which only leaves the "I" and its whims as the ultimate measure.

We have another measure: the Son of God, true man. He is the measure of true humanism. "Adult" is not a faith that follows the waves in fashion and the latest novelty. Adult and mature is a faith profoundly rooted in friendship with Christ. This friendship opens us to all that is good and gives us the measure to discern between what is true and what is false, between deceit and truth.

I say these words chased me, because I was still living a materialistic, relativistic lifestyle where work and hobbies were placed before God in many respects. I kept trying to get away from these words, but turning on the radio - there it was. Turning on the TV, ditto. Opening up my newspaper - "Dictatorship of relativism". I realized I did not even know what relativism was and looked it up in Yourdictionary - in part hoping it would stop chasing me.

Relativism: A theory, especially in ethics or aesthetics, that conceptions of truth and moral values are not absolute but are relative to the persons or groups holding them.

Upon reading that definition of this philisophical term, I immediately had a sinking feeling, all the while a lightbulb went on. I asked myself, "What is truth?" I sat at my desk pondering this simple question and by the grace of God learned something that would guide me ever since.

Truth is like North,
where the compass needle points.
I cannot head North
by going any other direction
in which I please
all the while bending the needle
to suit my desires.

Truth is either black or white,
but it is never shades of gray.

Truth is fixed.
It is static or unmoving;
never dynamic or moving.

Truth is timeless;
not unbounded by this generation or the next.
It is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow.

When praying from the Common of Pastors during Lauds, we encounter the passage (Hebrews 13:7-9a):

Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you; consider how their lives ended, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teaching.

It brings us back to the lodestar. As Fr. Corapi says, "Truth is not a something, it is a Somebody and that Somebody is Jesus Christ". That Truth is a point of reference which is fixed and unmoveable. It is absolute because anything else would be less than perfect, and God is perfect. It's not a matter of, "I'm ok, you're ok", it's a matter of, "is it ok with Jesus, who is Truth?"

Pope Benedict now, and yesterday as Cardinal Raztinger, has worked feverishly to get us to want to seek Truth. Truth is not always something that "feels good", but more often is difficult. Our Lord did not say the path was broad and easy. He said it was narrow and difficult. Therefore, when in doubt, take the narrow and difficult path.

We can't hit others over the head to get them to follow truth as it is not the way of Our Lord, who gives us the freedom to choose. This is why Pope Benedict does not engage in smack-downs. God does not force us into compliance, and neither will the Pope. It is something we must freely choose. Obedience to Truth is not slavery as some would have us believe. Rather, it is the other way around. Slavery to sin holds us captive from Truth. Only the those who are truly free can choose obedience.

Let the Truth set you free!!!