Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Continuing my use of past "Theological Thoughts," the doctrinal points addressed in this reflection follow a theme I have written about often, one that is probably quite familiar to you by now, namely that God desires our salvation and that through grace we respond to God’s call to us. These themes recur frequently in our Catholic theology. What connects these two points is the middle one, “God alone satisfies us (CCC 1718).” Part of the way that God calls all of us to eternal life and salvation is through the gift of our restlessness. It is what theologians and philosophers would call our human transcendence. In other words, the dynamism of our spirit eventually transcends or surpasses every finite thing in our life. Whatever we have or achieve is never enough. When we complete one task, we move on to another. Have you ever worked on a really big project at work or in school? Often when we have been putting a lot of our time and energy into something, there is an incredible relief when it is completed, but along with that relief comes a sense of restlessness. It is as if we don’t know what to do with ourselves all of the sudden. That feeling is an example of our transcendence. In theological terms, that restlessness is a gift from God. No finite thing or project or even person completely satisfies and fulfills us because only the infinite God can satisfy that longing. Only the One whom we can never transcend or surpass can fulfill that yearning. Oftentimes our relationships suffer because we place expectations on another human being that only God can realize. A spouse is someone who can be a companion and a partner on that mutual journey to fulfillment in God, but even a spouse cannot be God for us. We are finite beings, but we have been created with a capacity for the infinite, a capacity for God. Only the inexhaustible mystery of God can fill that capacity. God is a mystery that we cannot ever totally grasp or comprehend. If we could comprehend God, God would be a finite object like all of the others we are able to move beyond. We can never move beyond God. Furthermore when we let ourselves go and surrender into the abyss that is the infinite God, we discover that we have fallen into an abyss of love. Thus St. Augustine says, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee, O Lord.”

The desire for God is placed in our hearts by the God who desires our salvation. By that gift of God’s grace, we are drawn relentlessly toward God. At the same time we must consent to God’s gift. Often human beings try to fill that restlessness with material things or power or other finite things that they make into false gods or idols. However, it is important to note here that I am not saying that the things of this world are bad. In fact, it is only through the things and people of this world that we experience God. It is only through the things and people in this world that we can accept God’s call to us. We do so by actualizing the gifts God has given us: freedom, a conscience, the ability to love. Every time one acts in love, freedom, or truth, every time one recognizes beauty and goodness, one affirms the presence of our God who is love, freedom, truth, beauty, goodness, etc. Our movement toward God is always a movement that is acted out in the midst of our world. In doing so, we do not make the things of this world into gods, but we see the presence of God being mediated through the people and events of our lives.

We see the perfect actualization of God’s call and the human response in Jesus Christ. Christ is God’s offer to us and our response to God. Christ has enabled us to respond, so that through the power of the Holy Spirit, we say ‘yes’ to God in and through the ‘yes’ of Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a fully human life, a life of love, freedom and truth, and he calls us to imitate him. We see his ‘yes’ acted out in the events of his life, in his preaching, in his love for all people, and finally in his crucifixion. And in the resurrection, we see God’s ‘Amen’ to the life and death of Jesus, as well as God’s ‘Amen’ to our lives lived fully in freedom and love.

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