This being the case, can Christian faith provide a service to the common good with regard to the right way of understanding truth? To answer this question, we need to reflect on the kind of knowledge involved in faith.
Here a saying of Saint Paul can help us: "One believes with the heart" (Rom 10:10). In the Bible, the heart is the core of the human person, where all his or her different dimensions intersect: body and spirit, interiority and openness to the world and to others, intellect, will and affectivity.
If the heart is capable of holding all these dimensions together, it is because it is where we become open to truth and love, where we let them touch us and deeply transform us. Faith transforms the whole person precisely to the extent that he or she becomes open to love.
Through this blending of faith and love we come to see the kind of knowledge which faith entails, its power to convince and its ability to illumine our steps. Faith knows because it is tied to love, because love itself brings enlightenment. Faith’s understanding is born when we receive the immense love of God which transforms us inwardly and enables us to see reality with new eyes.
Lumen Fidei 26
Reflection – So this is picking up on yesterday’s post, which I suggest you read first if you haven’t already. I think the Holy Father (and in this paragraph, I wouldn’t be too sure if it’s Benedict or Francis writing this – it sounds like both of them really), is hitting the nail on the head with considerable skill and beauty here, if nails can be hit beautifully.
The claims of truth and love do seem to be in conflict in our world today—it is clearer and clearer all the time that to simply make a truth statement, no matter how carefully and kindly it is couched and qualified and explained, will get you labeled a ‘h8r’. Meanwhile the only path recognized as ‘love’ is to approve of whatever choice another person makes unconditionally.
I would point out, and this is a bit of a digression, that I had a hard time wording that last sentence. There is something a bit odd, isn’t there, in the seeking of approval from other people as some kind of necessary proof of love? Why does it matter whether or not ‘x’ approves of ‘a and b’ getting married, or ‘c and d’ living together, or ‘e’ choosing to end her pregnancy? After all, there are all sorts of people who think religion is all a pile of nonsense and Catholicism especially so, and I presume such people don’t exactly ‘approve’ of my being a Catholic priest… but why on earth would that trouble me again? I’m pretty sure I made a right choice in that particular matter, my many and calamitous failures in life notwithstanding.
There is something very telling in the constant need to have one’s questionable moral choices approved and validated at every level of social and personal life. I believe the moral law is written on the human heart, and those who have chosen to walk away from that moral law in a fundamental way have, therefore, a deep unease that expresses itself in this constant seeking of approval.
Meanwhile, back to truth and love. It is faith, then, that brings these two elements that seem to be in tension together. It is faith that makes truth not some weapon I can use to hit you with, or some steamroller that is running all of us over, but an encounter with a Person who loves us. And with faith, love is given content—no more a mere sentimentality, but a relationship with a Person who is transforming us day by day into the pattern of His own being.
This is why, as I have said before, we cannot successfully engage the great questions and controversies of our times, especially around the most painful and sensitive topics of human sexuality and sanctity of life, without evangelization. Unless there is a merciful God who is the author of the moral law, and who both teaches us this law as an act of love, and who is waiting to bind us all up when we all fail to live it, whose forgiveness is ready and whose mercy heals, we cannot bear the weight of truth, and love will indeed diminish to that weak sentimental form of ‘tolerance’.