Tibor Bejczi OP
On 7th September 1996, during his second visit to Hungary, at Győr, Pope St John Paul II said: “If we proclaim the Gospel in Hungarian society with renewed strength, our primary aim is to rediscover Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and to keep to his truth, because ‘Religion in Christ is no more groping attempt to find God, but rather the answer of believing in the God who reveals himself.’ […] You are to open yourselves bravely with reason and heart before Christ Jesus. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. In him is the salvation of humanity, not in the profit-seeking and materialistic opinions of today’s world! No other ‘Gospel’ gives hope for a future worthy of humanity!”
These words, spoken some twenty years ago, have much to say to us Dominicans in Central Europe to this day. In his speech the Pope demands above all an opening for Christ. So what consequences does the Pope’s challenge have for today’s Central European theologians?
1) Theology is there to bring people to reflection: Humankind is meant to get to know Christ as truth, and to adhere to his truth. Reason is the means of reflection, and reflection is to help people find God in everything. As human nature does not remain free of the influence of the world, humankind always needs supernatural truth, that is, a clear knowledge of oneself and of the world which surrounds us. We create our knowledge not just from natural sciences, however well God can be known from observation of the world or from philosophy. It is only in relation to God that humankind can understand itself and the world well and perfectly, and grow in maturity. To discover and order these relationships to God, the world and oneself, seems to be a permanent task for every Christian, a task which it is the theologian’s job to support.
2) The theologian is to help people to respond personally to God: The fact that the truth of Christ has appeared demands that people have a thoughtful response to it. This response to God places a demand not just on human reason, but also on our hearts. Like every human being – and indeed before all others – the theologian is appointed in this to search for God with his or her reason and his or her heart. It is on these two pillars that, in human terms, a healthy, spiritual and full life can be preserved. Theologians are before all else to pass on to humankind what they have picked up and kept with their reason and heart from God’s revelation, which was given to the whole Church. It is thus that theologians may serve as mediators of divine truth to humankind, so that people who search for the truth can be brought to the Church and accompanied in a personal response within it.
3) The theologian teaches people to keep a lively and permanent relationship with God: The truth which remains always the same, yesterday, today and forever is something we must live every day. Theology as an academic training is in itself not enough for living a Christian life. This training must always be moving us, because life is active and seeks a response in every situation. Hence what academic training must move a theologian the most to do is to actualise Christian truth, and thereby bring people closer to God. A part of this actualisation is the intention of finding God in all historical situations, because God works in historical situations and can change evil into good. From this search for God must arise the wish to transmit the truth to humankind.
4) The theologian is to help people to discover the Gospel in the Church: Belief is no private matter. It has an effect not only on my future, my – eternal – life, but also on the lives of others. The Church is an indispensable means for understanding Christ and accepting him. Nowadays it is a great challenge for theologians to convince people of their need for the Church. Without the Church, theology can neither be understood nor lived out. Because of this, the Church must be proclaimed not only as an institution of this world, but rather, today, it must first be proclaimed all the more as a sign of God’s turning towards humankind.
So we come from Truth to community. In his speech that time the Pope invited people to a dialogue with Christ: a permanent dialogue with reason and heart. From this, we Dominicans seek to win the world for Christ not only with our knowledge, but with the power of our conviction and the authenticity of our occupation. And isn’t this just our first and most important task in the Jubilee Year of our Order?
From the German by Dominic White OP, Newcastle (UK)