Christianity is the remembrance of the look of love that the Lord directs to man, this look that preserves the fullness of his truth and the ultimate guarantee of his dignity… Christians stand with their own life under this look of love; with this look, they receive a message that is essential for man’s life and for his future.”
Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, 71
Reflection – I suspect if you were to ask a wide sampling of Catholics what Christianity was in essence, few if any would come up with anything even resembling this passage. Yet, here we are, my fellow Catholics. This is what our Pope says Christianity is. And what a strange and beautiful vision of our faith it is.
We are often, along with Jews and Muslims, described as ‘people of the book.’ Here, Ratzinger says we are instead people of the look. ‘God looked on everything he had made, and said that it was very good’ (Gen ). This ‘looking’ of God, this seeing of God which is at the heart of creation, is so vital to our understanding of things.
‘Man looks upon appearances, but God sees the heart’ (1 Sam 16:7). God’s seeing is true. When God looks upon us with love, He is not simply being a nice Guy. He is seeing what we truly are. And our receiving this look of love then confirms and conforms us to the deep truth of who and what we are.
‘Jesus looked at him and loved him’ (Mk ). And Jesus calls him (the rich young man) to sell everything he had, give it to the poor and follow Jesus. This look of love is not, then, just a patronizing pat on the head. It penetrates to the heart of who we are and tells us who we are to become. It calls us to forsake everything else for the sake of that becoming. The look of love of God in Christ changes everything, and asks us to stake everything on that change.
The look of love Jesus gives us is most profoundly given to us from the Cross. This is the ultimate statement of God towards his creation, the ultimate declaration of ‘it is very good’. God is willing to die for his creation. It is impossible for God to die, but He does it anyhow. It is this look which above all bears us into the truth and dignity of our humanity. And this truth and dignity consists in assuming the same stance towards creation, and towards each other, as God assumes. God looked on creation and said it was good enough to die for;
we are to look at one another and say ‘you are good enough to die for.’
And proceed to do just that; lay down our lives for one another out of love, impelled and strengthened in this by the constant ongoing look of love God is giving us, a look which speaks to us the deep truth of our inner being, and the deeper truth of God’s inner being and His disposition towards us.
This is our faith, our holy Catholic faith that comes to us through the apostles. Learn it, love it, live it.