Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Unpredictable, Unprecedented, and Dramatic

The real novelty of the New Testament lies not so much in new ideas as in the figure of Christ himself, who gives flesh and blood to those concepts—an unprecedented realism. In the Old Testament, the novelty of the Bible did not consist merely in abstract notions but in God's unpredictable and in some sense unprecedented activity. This divine activity now takes on dramatic form when, in Jesus Christ, it is God himself who goes in search of the “stray sheep”, a suffering and lost humanity. When Jesus speaks in his parables of the shepherd who goes after the lost sheep, of the woman who looks for the lost coin, of the father who goes to meet and embrace his prodigal son, these are no mere words: they constitute an explanation of his very being and activity. His death on the Cross is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is love in its most radical form. By contemplating the pierced side of Christ (cf. ), we can understand the starting-point of this Encyclical Letter: “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). It is there that this truth can be contemplated. It is from there that our definition of love must begin. In this contemplation the Christian discovers the path along which his life and love must move.
Deus Caritas Est 12

Reflection – This passage from Pope Benedict’s first encyclical follows in a natural and beautiful way from the one cited in the previous post. The path of love, the mystery of love, the challenge and call to love—all of this only gets translated from either the realm of theory (let me draw you a schematic diagram of love!) or of lofty ideal (oh, wouldn’t it be nice if we could live like that… sigh) when we come into a relationship with Love Itself, which is not an idea or an ideal, but a person.
And this person cannot be someone who lived a very long time ago and who we read about it a nice book encrusted with jewels and gold leaf. He has to be someone real who we can meet somehow, somewhere, and truly draw life from. And so we have the Eucharist, which in a most literal and almost shockingly practical way gives ‘flesh and blood’ to the concept of love. Love poured out on every altar, love patiently awaiting us in every tabernacle, every monstrance, love coming into the depths of our bodies, souls, minds, and hearts to make love a living reality in our own life.
It is this unpredictable (who could ever have invented the Eucharist?), unprecedented (there really is nothing quite like this anywhere else), and dramatic (in other words, an event that occurs in real time and history, both the historical Incarnation, Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ and the ongoing event of the sacraments in the Church) activity of God which can alone translate love, real love, perfect love into an actual reality in our lives.
Deus Caritas Est – God is Love, and this love is poured out onto the world continually in the offering of Christ. And it is here that we both see and come to understand the way of love, and that way is made available to us as a real path we can walk on, if we choose. If we want our lives to reflect that kind of love.

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