Friday, March 02, 2007

In his Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis, Pope John Paul II provides us with an excellent definition of Christianity:

Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it. This, as has already been said, is why Christ the Redeemer "fully reveals man to himself". If we may use the expression, this is the human dimension of the mystery of the Redemption. In this dimension man finds again the greatness, dignity and value that belong to his humanity. In the mystery of the Redemption man becomes newly "expressed" and, in a way, is newly created. He is newly created! "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." The man who wishes to understand himself thoroughly-and not just in accordance with immediate, partial, often superficial, and even illusory standards and measures of his being-he must with his unrest, uncertainty and even his weakness and sinfulness, with his life and death, draw near to Christ. He must, so to speak, enter into him with all his own self, he must "appropriate" and assimilate the whole of the reality of the Incarnation and Redemption in order to find himself. If this profound process takes place within him, he then bears fruit not only of adoration of God but also of deep wonder at himself. How precious must man be in the eyes of the Creator, if he "gained so great a Redeemer," and if God "gave his only Son "in order that man "should not perish but have eternal life."

In reality, the name for that deep amazement at man's worth and dignity is the Gospel, that is to say: the Good News. It is also called Christianity. This amazement determines the Church's mission in the world and, perhaps even more so,"in the modern world". This amazement, which is also a conviction and a certitude-at its deepest root it is the certainty of faith, but in a hidden and mysterious way it vivifies every aspect of authentic humanism-is closely connected with Christ. It also fixes Christ's place-so to speak, his particular right of citizenship-in the history of man and mankind. Unceasingly contemplating the whole of Christ's mystery, the Church knows with all the certainty of faith that the Redemption that took place through the Cross has definitively restored his dignity to man and given back meaning to his life in the world, a meaning that was lost to a considerable extent because of sin. And for that reason, the Redemption was accomplished in the paschal mystery, leading through the Cross and death to Resurrection." (RH, No. 10).

We are created in the image and likeness of God and have been endowed by nature with the capacities to reason and make free choices. And our dignity as persons is rooted in our relationship to God. Again, in the words of John Paul II: "The dignity of the person is manifested in all its radiance when the person's origin and destiny are considered: created by God in his image and likeness as well as redeemed by the most precious blood of Christ, the person is called to be a 'child in the Son' and a living temple of the Spirit, destined for the eternal life of blessed communion with God....In virtue of his personal dignity the human being is always a value in himself and for himself, and as such demands being considered and treated as a person and never as an object to be used, or as a means, or as a thing." (Christifideles laici, No. 37).

This phrase "child in the Son" points to Christianity's special basis for affirming the dignity of every human being. A dignity which St. Paul explains in Galatians 3: 26, 28: "In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith....There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus."

Every human person is created in the image and likeness of God and as such is endowed with dignity. But this dignity also implies a responsibility: to seek religious truth, embrace it once it is found, and to live in accord with it - see Dignitatis humanae, No. 2 and Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 2104-2109.

God loves each and every human person unconditionally. But being loved by God is not enough to be in friendship with Him because friendship is mutual love. Therefore, our first and greatest responsibility is to love God (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1822).

We will never fully appreciate God's love for us. It is an inexhaustible mystery. However, the choice is ours as to how to respond to that love. St. Louis de Montfort explains in his work Love of Eternal Wisdom:

"..in order to draw closer to men and give them a more convincing proof of his love, eternal Wisdom went so far as to become man, even to become a little child, to embrace poverty and to die upon a cross for them. How many times while here on earth could he be heard pleading, "Come to me, come to me, all of you. Do not be afraid, it is I. Why are you afraid? I am just like you; I love you. Are you afraid because you are sinners? But they are the very ones I am looking for; I am the friend of sinners. If it is because you have strayed from the fold through your own fault, then I am the good shepherd. If it is because you are weighted down with sin, covered with grime and utterly dejected, then that is just why you should come to me for I will unburden you, purify you and console you."

Eternal Wisdom, on the one hand, wished to prove his love for man by dying in his place in order to save him, but on the other hand, he could not bear the thought of leaving him. So he devised a marvellous way of dying and living at the same time, and of abiding with man until the end of time. So, in order fully to satisfy his love, he instituted the sacrament of Holy Eucharist and went to the extent of changing and overturning nature itself. He does not conceal himself under a sparkling diamond or some other precious stone, because he does not want to abide with man in an ostentatious manner. But he hides himself under the appearance of a small piece of bread - man's ordinary nourishment - so that when received he might enter the heart of man and there take his delight. Ardenter amantium hoc est - Those who love ardently act in this way. "O eternal Wisdom," says a saint, "O God who is truly lavish with himself in his desire to be with man."

[ The ingratitude of those who refuse]

How ungrateful and insensitive we would be if we were not moved by the earnest desire of eternal Wisdom, his eagerness to seek us out and the proofs he gives us of his friendship! How cruel we would be, what punishment would we not deserve even in this world, if, instead of listening to him, we turn a deaf ear; if, instead of loving him, we spurn and offend him. The Holy Spirit tells us, "Those who neglected to acquire Wisdom not only inherited ignorance of what is good, but they actually left in the world a memorial of their folly in that their sins could not go unnoticed" (Wisd. 10:8). Those who during their lifetime do not strive to acquire Wisdom suffer a triple misfortune. They fall (a) into ignorance and blindness, (b) into folly, (c) into sin and scandal. But how unhappy they will be at the door of death when, despite themselves, they hear Wisdom reproach them, "I called you and you did not answer (Prov. 1:24). All the day long I held out my hands to you and you spurned me. Sitting at your door, I waited for you but you did not come to me. Now it is my turn to deride you (Prov. 1:26). No longer do I have ears to hear you weeping, eyes to see your tears, a heart to be moved by your sobs, or hands to help you." How great will be their misery in hell! Read what the Holy Spirit himself has to say about the miseries, the wailings, the regrets and the despair of the fools in hell who, all too late, realise their folly and misfortune in rejecting the eternal Wisdom of God. "They are now beginning to speak sensibly - but they are in hell" (Wisd. 5:14). (LEW, Nos 70-72).

1 comment:

Margaret said...

A wonderful post Paul. A rejection of God's love has terrible consequences. The choice is ours as to whether we will embrace His mercy or reject it. We must decide while we still have time.

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