Saturday, July 21, 2012

This Strange Passionate Mercy


We have seen that God's eros for man is also totally agape. This is not only because it is bestowed in a completely gratuitous manner, without any previous merit, but also because it is love which forgives. Hosea above all shows us that this agape dimension of God's love for man goes far beyond the aspect of gratuity. Israel has committed “adultery” and has broken the covenant; God should judge and repudiate her. It is precisely at this point that God is revealed to be God and not man: “How can I give you up, O Ephraim! How can I hand you over, O Israel! ... My heart recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger, I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst” (Hos 11:8-9). God's passionate love for his people—for humanity—is at the same time a forgiving love. It is so great that it turns God against himself, his love against his justice. Here Christians can see a dim prefigurement of the mystery of the Cross: so great is God's love for man that by becoming man he follows him even into death, and so reconciles justice and love.

Deus Caritas Est 10

Reflection – Powerful words here. Hosea is a powerful prophet, and the Pope’s meditation on Hosea takes him to a powerful place. God’s love so great ‘that it turns God against himself’ – this is a powerful image.

It seems to me that all of our lives spring from this, whether we know it or not. The initial reality of God’s creating love, out of which comes His choice to make you and me in the first place. And then, as we all fall into some form of adultery, some type of running after other gods and other goods, some breaking of the covenant, this strange passionate mercy which comes after us, descends upon us, blazes around us.

This is the foundational experience of faith. Experience is a loaded word, I realize. I don’t suggest that everyone has a mystical experience before they come to believe (clearly, not), or some kind of big emotional high or something. But there is something… perhaps in the quiet hidden depths of the soul, or in the outward concreteness of the confessional or the altar. Something, some way in which our poverty, brokenness and sin is… met. God’s love, and His passionate flaming mercy, and from this we can build our lives in and with Him.

What is revealed in this Hosea passage is indeed so very strange. God’s heart recoiling within his breast, God seemingly at war with Himself. Imagery, poetry, anthropomorphism? Well, OK, but even so, this is a true revelation of God here. Pope Benedict is right to see in this something that will only become clear in the death of Christ on the Cross. God’s love which is so powerful and overwhelming, so all-encompassing that it brings Him from heaven to earth and down into the pit of hell, even. Death itself is not too far to go for the living God and his love for us.

God is un-godded by his love for us, in a sense. That is, the strict separation between God and man, which on our part is so important to maintain out of reverence and proper humility, He has no problem in bridging. God’s love and mercy is so utterly utter—this strange passionate mercy—that He does ‘ungodly’ things like suffer and die and descend to hell for us. And so we come to know in this ‘ungodly God’ (paradox alert!) the true depths of who God in fact is.

Oh the depths of God, the unfathomable depths of his mercy and love! We will spend all eternity plumbing those depths and plummeting into them. Here and now, they provide for us the only sure foundation on which to build our lives, the only true and solid rock on which the house of humanity sits secure.

1 comment:

  1. Love's like a black lion, famished and ferocious, who only drinks the blood of the hearts of lovers. Love seizes you tenderly and drags you toward the trap... No one can escape his chains by trickery or madness; no sage can wriggle out of his nets by wisdom. "
    Rumi

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