Light of the people

Publish date 30-07-2023

by Cesare Falletti

In the paschal light we can open what is the most important document to come out of the Second Vatican Council: the one on the Church. It is a dogmatic constitution that has revolutionized the concept of the Catholic Church of the Latin rite, but even more it pushes us to try to understand what the Lord Jesus wanted by gathering his apostles and sending them to preach the good news to the whole world. We cannot say that this extraordinary document has already borne all the fruit it bears. The feeling of the faithful and even more a mentality too rooted in the thought of the pastors, slow down the right evolution towards a deeper understanding of the structure and mission of the Church of Jesus Christ in the world. But the great revolutions of thought need time, generations, before they bear fruit

When we say "the Church" still today many think of the pope or bishops, or at least of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, while the Council invites us to think of a whole population of baptized people who live nourished by the Word of God , who believe in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and want to live as a family gathered together by the love of Jesus Christ. The transition from the verticality of the hierarchy to the circle of believers united by the same faith, hope and charity has made us aware of the greatness of each one and of the need and responsibility in the commitment to make the Body of Christ the Savior live in today's world.

Naturally, the different responsibilities of each are not denied and shepherds continue to have their own specific and capital role, but are born from the living flesh of a people who recognize themselves as saved by the Passover of the Son of God, who came man like us, to save all those he calls brothers.
According to tradition, the document takes its name from the first words of the text; during the preparation it was called simply "The Church", but today we call it: Lumen gentium which translated means The light of the nations, which is Christ. The Council immediately wanted to say that Jesus, the Incarnate Word, the eternal Son of the eternal Father, our God, is the light that wants to illuminate not only Christians, but all peoples. The Church is not an association closed in on itself, which looks after the good of its members only, but a Body, the Body of Christ which offers itself for all and calls all to the light and joy of the Father's Kingdom. "Illuminate all men with the light of Christ that shines on the face of the Church", this says the beginning of the constitution: here we already see the great responsibility of all Christians. With the power of the Holy Spirit they are all called to illuminate by word and example those who are born into a world that very often is not only not Christian, but wants itself to be without God. They do not want to offer this light with compulsion or the law, but with their life. The Church is, says the Council, in some way the sacrament, that is the sign and the instrument, which works effectively, even if not always visibly, of the intimate union with God and of the unity of the whole human race. The light of Christ shines and for this reason the Church is sent, it is peace, leaven of peace and unity and brings about the fraternity of all men according to the will of the Creator.

The Council says that this is an urgent duty of the Church, not something simply aleatory in which she can rejoice. By letting the light of Christ shine, it must work in such a way that people understand that they will find their true nature in human fraternity. "So that all men, today more closely united by various social, technical and cultural ties, may also attain full unity in Christ".

Cesare Falletti
NP April 2023

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