Friday, March 16, 2012

People of the Look

Christianity is the remembrance of the look of love that the Lord directs to man, this look that preserves the fullness of his truth and the ultimate guarantee of his dignity… Christians stand with their own life under this look of love; with this look, they receive a message that is essential for man’s life and for his future.”

Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, 71

Reflection – I suspect if you were to ask a wide sampling of Catholics what Christianity was in essence, few if any would come up with anything even resembling this passage. Yet, here we are, my fellow Catholics. This is what our Pope says Christianity is. And what a strange and beautiful vision of our faith it is.

We are often, along with Jews and Muslims, described as ‘people of the book.’ Here, Ratzinger says we are instead people of the look. ‘God looked on everything he had made, and said that it was very good’ (Gen ). This ‘looking’ of God, this seeing of God which is at the heart of creation, is so vital to our understanding of things.

‘Man looks upon appearances, but God sees the heart’ (1 Sam 16:7). God’s seeing is true. When God looks upon us with love, He is not simply being a nice Guy. He is seeing what we truly are. And our receiving this look of love then confirms and conforms us to the deep truth of who and what we are.

‘Jesus looked at him and loved him’ (Mk ). And Jesus calls him (the rich young man) to sell everything he had, give it to the poor and follow Jesus. This look of love is not, then, just a patronizing pat on the head. It penetrates to the heart of who we are and tells us who we are to become. It calls us to forsake everything else for the sake of that becoming. The look of love of God in Christ changes everything, and asks us to stake everything on that change.

The look of love Jesus gives us is most profoundly given to us from the Cross. This is the ultimate statement of God towards his creation, the ultimate declaration of ‘it is very good’. God is willing to die for his creation. It is impossible for God to die, but He does it anyhow. It is this look which above all bears us into the truth and dignity of our humanity. And this truth and dignity consists in assuming the same stance towards creation, and towards each other, as God assumes. God looked on creation and said it was good enough to die for;
we are to look at one another and say ‘you are good enough to die for.’

And proceed to do just that; lay down our lives for one another out of love, impelled and strengthened in this by the constant ongoing look of love God is giving us, a look which speaks to us the deep truth of our inner being, and the deeper truth of God’s inner being and His disposition towards us.

This is our faith, our holy Catholic faith that comes to us through the apostles. Learn it, love it, live it.


  1. God bless you Father Dennis.
    I tend to look down.
    PLease God, the courage to look up.
    Then how coud we turn away?

    1. Yes, let us all pray for the grace to look up - 'I lift up my eyes to the mountains, from whence shall come my help, my help will come from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.'

  2. Is this remembrance the same as the "anamnesis" of conscience in his conscience essay you commented on a few days ago? If so, it suggests that conscience has an even bigger part to play than I had thought. As members of the Body of Christ, perhaps we are called to be constantly "remembering" the look of love as an ecclesial body (as Ratzinger suggests here) but also as individuals (via conscience, which itself has an ecclesial dimension, he implies in "Conscience and Truth").

    1. Now that's an interesting question! My little inner Thomist kicks in here to make a distinction that perhaps Ratzinger would not make. I think the anamnesis of conscience (aka synderesis) falls under the order of nature, being common to all human beings: the 'law written in our hearts' that Paul speaks of.
      This 'remembrance' would be in the order of grace, perhaps coterminous with the gift of the Holy Spirit of wisdom.
      Ratzinger not being a Thomist, I don't know if he would make such a hard distinction between the two orders. At the end of his essay, which I hope to eventually blog through to, he does actually bring this in: the anamnesis of conscience being incomplete until it incorporates the knowledge of grace poured out in Jesus Christ, so your suggestion is in line with his thought for sure.
      Beautiful stuff, this.


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