Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Harmony of Truth and Love

Today, April 16th, is the 86th birthday of our Pope Emeritus, Benedict. I love Pope Benedict, Joseph Ratzinger. I love his Christian imagination, his heart of prayer, and his gift for teaching. Pope Benedict saved my vocation to the priesthood.

Somewhat. When I was in seminary it was during the pontificat of Blessed John Paul II. Most all of my brothers LOVED JP2 and raved about his writings: the Theology of the Body, Love and Responsibility, Veritatis Splendor, and more. I couldn't read JP2. I enjoyed what he said, I just hated reading of it. I'm intellectually lazy in some ways.

That always bummed me out and it was a small question in my heart. "Am I NOT supposed to be a priest because I don't love JP2's writing?" Then I was assigned to read Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. His writing amazed me. His writing spoke directly and simply to my heart. I had finally found a "Catholic celebrity" to read! All the more exciting then was his elevation to the papacy in 2005, just over a month before I was to be ordained a deacon. What a gift!

Today I want to share a favorite passage of his writings, one of the ones that made me fall in love with theology and see how good writing and teaching can lead hearts- my own included- closer to Jesus. You might find it inaccessible and hard to understand. Don't worry, this is not a test of your Catholicity but a sharing in the riches God has provided for me. Keep reading good Catholic theologians, though, and you'll find your own "Catholic celebrity."
"If an individual is to accept himself, someone must say to him: "It is good that you exist"-must say it, not with words, but with that act of the entire being that we call love. For it is the way of love to will the other's existence and, at the same time, to bring that existence forth again.
We now come to the all-important question: Is it true, then, when someone says to me: "It is good that you exist"? Is it really good? Is it not possible that that person's love, which wills my existence, is just a tragic error? If the love that give me courage to exist is not based on truth, then I must, in the end, come to curse the love that deceives me, that maintains in existence something that were better destroyed...
It raises the question of truth: Is it good that I exist? Is it good that anything at all exists? Is the world good? How many persons today would dare to affirm this question from the heart- to believe that it is good that they exist? That is the source of the anxiety and despair that incessantly affects mankind. Love alone is of no avail. It serves no purpose if truth is not on its side. One when truth and love are in harmony can man know joy. For it is truth that makes man free.
The content of the Christian evangelium [Greek word meaning good news, where we get the word Gospel] reads: God finds man so important that he himself has suffered for man. The Cross, which was for Nietzsche the most detestable expression of the negative character of the Christian religion, is in truth the center of the evangelium, the glad tidings: "It is good that you exist."- no, "It is necessary that you exist." The Cross is the approbation [formal approval] of our existence, not in words, but in an act so completely radical that it caused God to become flesh and pierced this flesh to the quick; that, to God, it was worth the death of his incarnate Son. One who is so loved that the other identifies his life with this love and no longer desires to live if he is deprived of it; one who is loved even unto death- such a one knows that he is truly loved. But if God so loves us, then we are loved in truth. Then love is truth, and truth is love. Then life is worth living. This is the evangelium [good news]... Christianity is, by its very nature, joy- the ability to be joyful."

From "Principles of Catholic Theology." page 80-81.

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