Thursday, November 02, 2006

God acting in Man

I admit it, I've been having a rough go of it lately. I don't really know why, and I don't ever expect to fully know why this side of the great Abyss. I mention it only because perhaps it is this great malaise with which I have been dealing that makes what I'm about to quote so powerful to me. While reading Pope Benedict's What It Means to Be a Christian I left myself a series of marker tabs for bits I thought particularly interesting. I noticed the tabs when I sat down just now and started to flip through them. I don't know - it speaks to me, does it speak to you?

So when we say that the meaning of Christian service, the meaning of our Christian faith cannot be determined solely on the basis of the individual believer, but, rather, that this meaning derives from taking an essential, indispensable place in the whole and for the sake of the whole; when we say that we are Christians, not for our own sakes, but because God wishes us, and needs us, to take on this service in the broad sweep of history, then we should not, nevertheless, fall into the opposite error of talking as though the individual were only a small cog in the great cosmic machine. Although it is true that God wants, not just individuals, but all of us in our relations with and for one another, it nonetheless remains true that he knws and loves every single one of us, for ourselves. Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of man, in whom there took place the decisive breakthrough of universal history toward the union of the creature with God, was an individual, born of a human mother. He lived a unique life, had his own personal face, and died his own death. What is both offensive and sublime in the Christian message
is still that the fate of all history, our fate, depends on one individual: Jesus of Nazareth.
Yet we should live no less from this great certainty, this great joy: that God loves me, this particular person; that he loves each one who has a human face, however disturbed and however distorted that human face might be. And when we say, "God loves me", we should not simply feel the responsibility, the danger of being unworthy of that love; rather, we should accept the message about love and grace in all its sublimity and its integrity.

I find this passage to be typical Benedict. Simple, sublime, complex, intricate and obvious all wound up into one, but also overwhelmingly positive. You can tell that he truly feels and desires to translate to the reader the incalculable love God has for each and every one of us. It is a strange thing to contemplate, that God could not love any one of us more if we were the only one He had ever created, and yet he created us as social creatures and one of a great multitude.

Benedict comes back again and again in his works (those I have read so far, anyway) to make the point that God has shown repeatedly that He wishes to reveal Himself in this world through his creation, not just in the by now over-played "see God in the mountains and animals" way but in the pinnacle of His creation, the one thing He created formed in His image and likeness. Benedict reminds us over and over that God has decided to reveal himself to humanity in us, but not just in "us" as an abstract grouping of people, but as the concrete definite individuals we all are and in the amalgam we have created of it. Our call is, simply, to help God reveal Himself to those around us. We do not do this because we are God per se, but because we allow Him to work through us. This reflection is piqued I think on the events of the past two days, All Saints and All Souls days, where we take special time to reflect on those who helped to reveal something of God in their lives, and in some special cases that revelation stays with us to this day and is retold over and over.

No matter how dark and dank a day may become that is a fact that, when reflected upon, makes it impossible to stay harshly depressed. Your day, your week, may be difficult but that difficulty is not what God has called you to; He has called you to help to reveal Him to those around you. He chose to reveal himself to us in the form of a man, not as an angel nor as a divine manuscript handed down on a cloud detailing everything to us for all posterity. No, he came as a man, as one like us in all things but sin. Does it not, indeed, make sense that He would continue to wish to work through man to continue to reveal Himself? And as our Holy Father reminded us, since Deus Caritas Est, since God is Love, that revelation is the continued revelation of what truly is Love. Positively heartwarming.

Update: I hate it when I forget titles... *sigh*