Thursday, September 1, 2011

To Cultivate and Beautify Creation

In the reading which has just been proclaimed, we heard a passage from the Gospel which talks of welcoming the words of Jesus and putting them into practice. There are words which serve only to amuse, as fleeting as an empty breeze; others, to an extent, inform us; those of Jesus, on the other hand, must reach our hearts, take root and bloom there all our lives. If not, they remain empty and become ephemeral. They do not bring us to him and, as a result, Christ stays remote, just one voice among the many others around us which are so familiar. Furthermore, the Master who speaks teaches, not something learned from others, but that which he himself is, the only one who truly knows the path of man towards God, because he is the one who opened it up for us, he made it so that we might have authentic lives, lives which are always worth living, in every circumstance, and which not even death can destroy…
Of course, you know that when we do not walk beside Christ our guide, we get lost on other paths, like the path of our blind and selfish impulses, or the path of flattering but self-serving suggestions, deceiving and fickle, which leave emptiness and frustration in their wake… Indeed, there are many who, creating their own gods, believe they need no roots or foundations other than themselves. They take it upon themselves to decide what is true or not, what is good and evil, what is just and unjust; who should live and who can be sacrificed in the interests of other preferences; leaving each step to chance, with no clear path, letting themselves be led by the whim of each moment. These temptations are always lying in wait. It is important not to give in to them because, in reality, they lead to something so evanescent, like an existence with no horizons, a liberty without God.
We, on the other hand, know well that we have been created free, in the image of God, precisely so that we might be in the forefront of the search for truth and goodness, responsible for our actions, not mere blind executives, but creative co-workers in the task of cultivating and beautifying the work of creation.
Welcoming Ceremony for the Holy Father, Plaza de Cibeles, August 18, 2011

Reflection – One of the lovely things about World Youth Day for me was hearing the Pope presenting some of his most central and deepest insights, themes which I have studied at length in some of his most scholarly works, to the youth of the world. He has a gift, generally, for expressing profound theological truths in simple language; in Madrid, that gift was at its fullest expression.
In Spe Salvi he talks about the Gospel being ‘performative’ instead of merely ‘informative’; in Madrid, he simply says that the words of Jesus must take root and bloom in our lives. In many of his writings he analyzes the necessary unity of truth and freedom and their common root in God; there, he reminded the young people of the destructive path so many of their peers are on, living for the moment, making up their own rules as they go, a path that leads nowhere but to the death of both innocence and innocents.
It is the beautiful vision of true freedom, though, which is so captivating in this passage. We are not mere ‘blind executives’ (great image!) but creative co-workers with God. And our job is not to make up some form of reality from whole cloth, but to ‘cultivate and beautify’ the creation God has already made. It is such a positive vision given here, and this is what young people (and us not-quite-so-young people) need so much. What are we to do? What on earth are we to do with our lives? Pope Benedict knows, and he is happy to share his knowledge with us, in simple language accessible to everyone.
This is why I’ve started this blog, and am so grateful for the readers I have, and would like (pretty please) to have a few more readers. It’s not (please God!) for my own personal ego-satisfaction. Rather, this man truly has a vision which, if people read him, absorbed it, and made it their own, would truly solve the horrible anguish of our post-modern world, give a way out of the terrible darkness we have fallen into.
Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI knows the way out, knows where the path of light can be found, precisely for us post-moderns and the specific situation we are in. To be slightly (!) repetitive, I encourage you to read him.

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