Monday, May 17, 2010

"Amor ergo sum"

I don't why it is so difficult for us, myself included, to get over the idea that there is a correlation, even a direct correlation, between following the rules and God's propensity to bless us, or even love us. We have all been told that God loves us no matter what we do. However, many of the same people who tell us this, like Job's friends, when the chips are down for us, say things like "What'd you do to piss God off?" Isn't this what St. Paul was getting at when he wrote to the early Christian community in Rome, telling them "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8)? So, I think it helps to be clear about what it means to be blessed. A blessing is nothing other than our recognition of one of the many concrete manifestations of God's love for us.

To truly love another person is to love her/his destiny. Nobody loves your destiny more than the One who is your destiny. He uses everything that happens to you to bring about His purpose for you and through you. If you doubt that, let's turn again to Paul: "we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28).

"Aha," you might say, "I found the loophole!" In order for all things to work together for my good I not only have to love God, but be called according to God's purpose. Well, we're all called. I am a firm believer in what the great Protestant theologian Karl Barth set forth when he posited universal election, which was echoed by Von Balthasar: God calls everyone, no exceptions! So, God, "who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth," is always and without exception trying to lead to you to your destiny ( 1 Tim. 2:4). Love, which constitutes both God's call and our response, requires freedom. Because God is love, God respects our freedom. Think about this: Unlike Isaac, whom God called upon Abraham to sacrifice on Mt. Moriah, Jesus was a knowing and willing sacrifice. If Jesus really had not wanted to submit Himself to the Father's will, the Father would have respected his choice. According to St. Luke's account, Jesus prayed, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done" (Luke 22:42).

As with so many things, The Beatles got it quite wrong: in the end the love you take is infinitely greater than the love you make. Along with Paul Hewitt (a.k.a. Bono Vox, or just Bono), I'll take grace over karma anyday. If your karma ran over my dogma, then the whole world is in trouble!

This mode of thinking has many practical manifestations in the life of faith. For example, many people put off going to confession because they are worried about whether God will forgive them. My friends, we go to confession knowing that we are always already forgiven, no matter what we have done. After all, we don't call it good news for nothing! Besides, God doesn't need confession, we do. It is the way God gives us for realizing and experiencing God's love as forgiveness in Christ. I use realize in the sense that confession makes what is already true real for us by making it an experience, something objective, concrete. It is an event that can certainly be for us an encounter, a place where we meet Christ, who embraces us, wipes away our tears, binds up our wounds, and assures us, again, that He is with us always.

I am thinking about a t-shirt that says on the front- God loves you, okay? On the back it would read- Deal with it!

Or, perhaps getting permission from His Grace, Bishop N.T. Wright, to use his lovely variation on Descartes' theme- 'Amor, ergo sum,' meaning "I am loved, therefore I am!"

Alithos Anesti


  1. Thursday will be the one year mark and that has been weighing heavily on my mind and heart. I came to your blog looking for... something. And once again I found it.

    So, thank you for the reminders of things already known. Thank you for putting so beautifully into words that which I needed to hear.

    Thank you. And Bless you! I am grateful to have your presence in my life.

  2. Sara:

    I was thinking about that the other day. I am very grateful that my little on-line effort is channel of grace and hope. AT the end of the day, that is really why I do it, a little light in the darkness, at least that's what I pray for.

    I always appreciate your encouragement. Honestly, I'm glad you're not asking any questions tough philosophical/theological questions about Nicea and Chalcedon today. I'm too tired.

  3. To have... and to be a light in the darkness is all I ever pray for. It is a true blessing to have it. I think the light seems so fragile and precious a thing despite its strength because I forget where to look for it.

    And no tough questions this week (maybe next week). It'll be enough to remember amor ergo sum.