Spe salvi (2)
The First Letter of Peter counsels, in a well-known verse, “Always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is in you” (3:15). And that hope is new life through Jesus Christ — now and in eternity.
Pope Benedict’s Australian pilgrimage continues in unusually balmy weather. In season and out of season, the Pope proclaims the good news of Jesus Christ, the source and foundation of Christian hope.
In his meeting with leaders of Christian communities he said:
Every element of the Church’s structure is important, yet all of them would falter and crumble without the cornerstone who is Christ. As “fellow citizens” of the “household of God”, Christians must work together to ensure that the edifice stands strong so that others will be attracted to enter and discover the abundant treasures of grace within. As we promote Christian values, we must not neglect to proclaim their source by giving a common witness to Jesus Christ the Lord. It is he who commissioned the apostles, he whom the prophets preached, and he whom we offer to the world.
Dear friends, your presence fills me with the ardent hope that as we pursue together the path to full unity, we will have the courage to give common witness to Christ. Paul speaks of the importance of the prophets in the early Church; we too have received a prophetic calling through our baptism. I am confident that the Spirit will open our eyes to see the gifts of others, our hearts to receive his power, and our minds to perceive the light of Christ’s truth. I express heartfelt thanks to all of you for the time, scholarship and talent which you have invested for the sake of the “one body and one spirit” (Eph 4:4; cf. 1 Cor 12:13) which the Lord willed for his people and for which he gave his very life. All glory and power be to him for ever and ever. Amen!
And to representatives of other religious traditions he reflected upon both commonalities and distinctiveness:
The world’s religions draw constant attention to the wonder of human existence. Who can help but marvel at the power of the mind to grasp the secrets of nature through scientific discovery? Who is not stirred by the possibility of forming a vision for the future? Who is not impressed by the power of the human spirit to set goals and to develop ways of achieving them? Men and women are endowed with the ability not only to imagine how things might be better, but to invest their energies to make them better. We are conscious of our unique relationship to the natural realm. If, then, we believe that we are not subject to the laws of the material universe in the same way as the rest of creation, should we not make goodness, compassion, freedom, solidarity, and respect for every individual an essential part of our vision for a more humane future?
Yet religion, by reminding us of human finitude and weakness, also enjoins us not to place our ultimate hope in this passing world. Man is “like a breath, his days are like a passing shadow” (Ps 144:4). All of us have experienced the disappointment of falling short of the good we wish to accomplish and the difficulty of making the right choice in complex situations.
The Church shares these observations with other religions. Motivated by charity, she approaches dialogue believing that the true source of freedom is found in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Christians believe it is he who fully discloses the human potential for virtue and goodness, and he who liberates us from sin and darkness. The universality of human experience, which transcends all geographical boundaries and cultural limitations, makes it possible for followers of religions to engage in dialogue so as to grapple with the mystery of life’s joys and sufferings. In this regard, the Church eagerly seeks opportunities to listen to the spiritual experience of other religions. We could say that all religions aim to penetrate the profound meaning of human existence by linking it to an origin or principle outside itself. Religions offer an attempt to understand the cosmos as coming from and returning to this origin or principle. Christians believe that God has revealed this origin and principle in Jesus, whom the Bible refers to as the “Alpha and Omega” (cf. Rev 1:8; 22:1).