Traces N.11, December 2006

The Indomitable Positivity that Rules the Pope’s Heart

In the biblical teaching about creation, matter (the cosmos) and human personhood (the spiritual) cannot be separated. There must be a connection between the end of the world as a subjective anthropological experience and a cosmological event

Benedict XVI’s visit to Turkey was a journey of witness–a journey in the face of hostility. Not only did the Pope touch and take on many of the questions of our era–the relationship between different identities, religious freedom, human rights, ecumenism, and great geopolitical questions, he also showed, with words and gestures, how a man of faith tackles such problems–problems that, on a larger scale, are the same dilemmas (fostered by the evil that generates hostility) that we all come across every day, both outside and within ourselves. With words and gestures, he showed and witnessed to that indomitable positivity that rules the heart of a Christian and drives it on in the pursuit of good. Both commentators and simple citizens–Turks, Arabs and Westerners–noted how simple and direct the Pope was, and how, certain of his own faith and his own responsibility was capable of openness and dialogue in true encounters. The source of this attitude lies not in a strategy of communication nor in a political position. It comes from the peace produced by faith.
What is the peace of a man of faith? A kind of imperturbable calm? The absence of conflicts? A flight from the contradictions of history? He himself spoke of it to the small Christian community that lives in those places St. Paul visited and where Mary lived. “He is our peace” was the motto chosen by the Pope for his apostolic visit. Commenting on the passage in which St. Paul used that expression, Benedict XVI said, “Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul tells us that Jesus Christ has not only brought us peace, but that he is our peace. And he justifies this statement by referring to the mystery of the Cross: by shedding ‘his blood’, by offering in sacrifice ‘his flesh’, Jesus destroyed hostility ‘in himself’ and created ‘in himself one new man in place of the two’ (Eph 2:14-16). The Apostle explains how, in a truly unforeseen way, messianic peace has now come about in Christ’s own person and his saving mystery. …This mystery is accomplished, in salvation history, in the Church, the new People in which, now that the old dividing wall has been broken down, Jews and pagans find themselves united. Like Christ himself, the Church is not only the instrument of unity, but also its efficacious sign. And the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ and of the Church, is the Mother of that mystery of unity which Christ and the Church inseparably signify and build up, in the world and throughout history.”
Evil–which harms us because it introduces a suspicion that distances us from others–is conquered in Christ, who suffered it but did not let himself be dominated by it, since His attachment to the Father and to men was so much stronger.
The witness given by the Pope, who is now seen by everyone as a man of peace, is rooted in Baptism. Every day we experience how powerful and corrosive enmity is. For many, this is the true and definitive image of human life. When it is prey to enmity, life is a futile struggle using restrictions, laws, and other means to limit the damage it causes, and ends up ensuring an existence without too many problems for the strongest. Baptism overthrows this vision. It doesn’t abandon life to enmity, to bitterness and to the violence it generates; it destroys its root.
In the Cathedral of Istanbul, the Pope said, “When we received the sacrament of Baptism, we were all immersed in the Lord’s death and resurrection, ‘we were given to drink of the one Spirit’ and Christ’s life became our own, that we might live like him, that we might love our brothers and sisters as he has loved us (cf. Jn 13:34).” The Pope’s witness is the same as that of many simple Christians who rediscover the meaning of their own Baptism–when a man let’s the positivity which is Christ enter him, life becomes an original presence and no longer a reaction to the circumstances. The whole visit was proof of this, recalling the Christians to an adventurous mission as co-workers of the will of the Father who wants good in the world, and to taste, in the present, the victory over evil along the road marked out by Benedict XVI: “This Good News is not just a word, but a person, Christ himself, risen and alive!” Happy Christmas to all.