As I have re-read Pope Francis’ first encyclical, I see not only its content, but also the way it serves as a model for doing theology about anything. The Pope moves from a consideration of the selected topic itself (the light of faith), to a look at how the Church is meant to embrace it (sacraments, prayer, morality, unity)–and now, to the indispensable need to manifest it in the world.
Chapter Four moves us into the world–into what Eugene Peterson and others are calling today “lived theology.” And the very first thing Pope Francis says about the light of faith is that it is meant to create “a place in which human beings can dwell together with one another.”
And so, the first sub-theme is “Faith and the Common Good.” As the Pope notes, faith does not only grant us interior firmness, it also enriches life for everyone. When it fails to do that, a profession of faith deteriorates into a “club membership” that requires allegiance for those who want to join.
But as Pope Francis rightly notes, the light of faith also shines into the world to dispel darkness–not only to strengthen the faithful, but also to strengthen the common good.
Faith does not move us away from the world into a religious community, it creates life together that stirs us to vocational discipleship–using our everyday roles and responsibilities to represent the way of Christ.