In a post from a few weeks ago, I invited us to take another look during this Year of Faith at the rich teachings of the Second Vatican Council.

However, my reading hasn’t actually begun with one of the 16 documents produced from the council. Instead I read the opening address from Blessed Pope John XXIII, given on Oct. 11, 1962.

You can find it here.

There is much to digest in this text. I am immediately struck by the immense hopefulness of the Pope. He is very clear about the immense challenges that faced the church back then (many of which are the same today, if not intensified). Yet, in the face of this, he says:

We feel that We must disagree with these prophets of doom, who are always forecasting worse disasters, as though the end of the world were at hand.

Why would he say this? In the midst of his world – filled with uncertainty and fear resulting from communism, the threat of nuclear war, and rapid societal change – how could he have had this hope?

In his wisdom, Bl. John notes that we must be students of “history, that great teacher of life.” We can learn from those who have gone before us, who have experienced trials and tribulations, and who not only survived but thrived. Through this reading of history and through the gift of faith, we can thus “recognize here the hand of God.”

In the light of this, the Pope calls upon the council to safeguard “the sacred heritage of Christian truth” and to ensure that this truth may be “expounded with greater efficiency” in our world.

In short, it seems to me that he was calling for a rediscovery of who we are as Christians – as members of Jesus Christ – and for a real creativity and urgency in proclaiming this Jesus who is Truth to the world.

If you’ve been following any of the documents or events surrounding the Year of Faith (such as the excellent letter from Pope Benedict, Porta Fidei), this should sound very familiar.

The Year of Faith, beginning as it did on the 50th anniversary of this address from Blessed John XXIII, is challenging us all to reawaken this same sense of faith. It’s calling upon us to rediscover the richness of our heritage and of the coming of Jesus, who “is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13.8). And it’s challenging us to take up our essential calling as Christians, which is to “make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28.19).

This is a huge challenge. We cannot meet it on our own. But today’s gospel at Mass is instructive: “For humans it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” (Mark 10.27).

May we take up the challenge in this Year of Faith in a new way by allowing ourselves to be transformed by Jesus Christ, who gives us our identity and our mission.