Call to Faith - Pope Francis

(Homily for Seventeenth Ordinary Sunday - Year C)

Message: Read Pope Francis' new encyclical and pray for him as leads World Youth Day in Rio.

This week I am in Rio for World Youth Day with Pope Francis. I would like to encourage brother homilists to read his new encyclical on the Light of Faith (Lumen Fidei). Here are some possible applications to this Sunday's readings:

The encyclical has 23 references to Abraham, who is the subject of our first reading. In the second reading St. Paul speaks about baptism, which is also mentioned 23 times in "Lumen Fidei." Like Jesus in the Gospel, Pope Francis insists that far from being opposed to seeking, true faith involves seeking, asking and knocking. (You will find the word "seek" 14 times in LF.)

Regarding the theme of forgiveness that we see in today's Gospel, Pope Francis writes:

Faith likewise offers the possibility of forgiveness, which so often demands time and effort, patience and commitment. Forgiveness is possible once we discover that goodness is always prior to and more powerful than evil, and that the word with which God affirms our life is deeper than our every denial. From a purely anthropological standpoint, unity is superior to conflict; rather than avoiding conflict, we need to confront it in an effort to resolve and move beyond it, to make it a link in a chain, as part of a progress towards unity.

I encourage you to read the Pope Francis' first encyclical. It will provide "soup starters" not only for this Sunday's homily, but for others that touch the theme of faith. Besides quotes from the Bible, the Fathers and other Christian writers, it cites modern authors such Martin Buber and Nietzsche(!). I was particularly impressed by his quote from T.S. Eliot. He cites the great Anglican poet as he confronts the question of what our world would look like without faith:

When faith is weakened, the foundations of life also risk being weakened, as the poet T.S. Eliot warned:

"Do you need to be told that even those modest attainments
As you can boast in the way of polite society
Will hardly survive the Faith to which they owe their significance?"

If we remove faith in God from our cities, mutual trust would be weakened, we would remain united only by fear...

Finally the pope emphasizes that the opposite of faith is not atheism, but idolatry: "Faith, tied as it is to conversion, is the opposite of idolatry; it breaks with idols to turn to the living God in a personal encounter."

So please prayerfully read Pope Francis' new encyclical and pray for him as leads World Youth Day in Rio and as he leads our Church.* Amen.


*Fr. John Zuhlsdorf ("Fr Z") has recorded a free (!) audio file of the entire encyclical. He has a marvelous voice which makes for enjoyable listening.

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From Archives (17th Sunday, Year C):

2010: Try God
2007: Why I Believe God Exists
2004: Persistence Pays
2001: Lord, Teach Us To Pray
1998: Prayer of Intercession

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