Saturday, November 24, 2012

Love or a Battlefield?


Is faith truly the transforming force in our life, in my life? Or is it merely one of the elements that are part of existence, without being the crucial one that involves it totally? With the Catecheses of this Year of Faith let us make a journey to reinforce or rediscover the joy of faith, in the knowledge that it is not something extraneous, detached from daily life, but is its soul. Faith in a God who is love, who makes himself close to man by incarnating himself and by giving himself on the Cross, who saves us and opens the doors of Heaven to us once again, clearly indicates that man’s fullness consists solely in love.

This must be unequivocally reasserted today, when the cultural transformations under way frequently display so many forms of barbarity, passed off as “conquests of civilization”. Faith affirms that there is no true humanity except in the places, actions, times and forms in which the human being is motivated by the love that comes from God. It is expressed as a gift and reveals itself in relationships full of love, compassion, attention and disinterested service to others. Wherever there is domination, possession, exploitation and the taking advantage of the other for selfish reasons, wherever there is the arrogance of the ego withdrawn into the self, the human being is impoverished, debased and disfigured. The Christian faith, active in charity and strong in hope, does not limit but rather humanizes life, indeed, makes it fully human.

General Audience, 17 October 2012

Reflection – There is no true humanity except in being motivated by the love that comes from God. This is a rather extraordinary statement, if you think about it a bit. What it means to be human is to receive God’s love and live out of that love. Humanity, then, is fundamentally receptivity, with an openness to what is above and beyond our human capacities.

I had a little debate with a commenter the other day about living by reason vs. living by faith. The virtue and sufficiency of living solely by reason, by our human lights and capacities, begs the question—that is, it assumes the conclusion that there is nothing else for us, no other mode of existence by which we are or could live.

The fact is, reason alone can be used in the service of domination, possession, exploitation, selfishness and the ego. It doesn’t have to be, but there’s nothing preventing that. A rational process is only as good as its starting premises and the data it considers. ‘Garbage in, garbage out,’ as the old computer programmers used to say.

If love is truly to be the heart and soul, the essence and point of human life, what makes human life truly human, then faith is needed. There must be a love that exceeds our love, that holds not only our love and our lives but the entire cosmos in its embrace.

I’m reminded of something I wrote in my new book Going Home about just that, so I leave with you with this ‘below the fold,’ reminding you that Going Home would make a nice Christmas gift for all the prodigal and older sons and daughters in your life:


Some might argue that it is indeed all about love, but why do we need to bring God into it? “All you need is love,” sang the Beatles. Somehow, I don’t think they were thinking about God the Father.

The trouble is that if love is not understood as somehow flowing from and rooted in something bigger than human intentions and human acts, then it’s not all we need. It’s really not. The universe is vast, and human beings are tiny. If it’s all about love, but we exclude God from that equation, then the math doesn’t add up too well.

And what about all the people who don’t seem to think it’s all about love? What do we do with them? If love is going to be the center of all reality, then there has to be a Real Center who is Love Itself. Otherwise it’s just fine words and nice sentiments.

And if that’s all this love business is, then we are left in a very difficult position. Slaving away for whatever we can get, and we better get whatever ‘kid’ we can for however long we’ve got. And we’d better position ourselves favorably in comparison to all these other people – if love and mercy is not really what it’s all about, then it’s a zero sum game, and we have to fight for our share of ‘it’, whatever we decide ‘it’ might be.

If God is not at the center of everything, with his love and mercy, then all we need is not love, but power. If we’re not being given everything that God is so as to receive it and return it and share it with everyone, then the world is a place of scarce resources and fierce competition.

Without the Father’s love, the universe becomes a cold, dangerous place. Without the Father’s love, life becomes a precarious affair, a fight for survival, a long hard slog with no clear or certain purpose or outcome. Without the Father’s love, we are living outside the house, literally homeless, and the burden of fashioning some kind of temporary shelter for ourselves is a heavy one indeed.

 
Of course, the good news is that the Father’s love is upon us always, and our lives are held secure by that love. Christ is indeed the King of kings and Lord of lords, transforming the whole world by his love. See you tomorrow, on the King’s feast day.