Friday, March 30, 2007

Truth and Love

If One Does Not Encounter True Love, Then He Cannot Call Himself Fully Christian
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Homily at the Penitential Liturgy
St. Peter's Basilica, March 29, 2007

In the heart of every man - a beggar for love - is a thirst for love. My beloved predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, wrote in his first encyclical, Redemptoris Hominis: "Man cannot live without love. He would remain incomprehensible to himself, his life would be devoid of sense, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, experience it and make it his own, if he does not fully participate in it" (n. 10).

Even more so, the Christian cannot live without love. Indeed, if he does not encounter true love then he cannot even call himself fully Christian, because as the encyclical Deus Caritas Est says, "Being Christian does not start from an ethical decision or a great idea, but rather with an event, an encounter with a Person who gives life a new horizon, and with this, its decisive orientation." (n. 1).

God's love for us, which began with the Creation, is made visible in the mystery of the Cross, in that kenosis of God - the emptying and humiliating degradation of the Son of God - which we heard the apostle Paul proclaim in the first Reading, in his magnificent hymn to Christ in the Letter to the Philippians. Yes, the Cross reveals the fullness of God's love for us. Love that was crucified, that did not end with the scandal of Good Friday but culminates in the joy of the Resurrection and the Ascension to Heaven, and the gift of the Holy Spirit - the Spirit of love through which, even tonight, sins are remitted and forgiveness and peace are granted.

God's love for man, which is expressed in its fullness on the Cross, can be described by the word agape, the sacrificing love which seeks exclusively only the good of the other," but it can also be described as eros. In fact, while it is a love that offers man all that God is, as I noted in the message for Lent this year, it is also a love in which "the heart of God Himself, the Omnipotent, awaits the 'Yes' of his creature as a bridegroom awaits that of his bride."

Unfortunately, "from its very beginnings, mankind has been seduced by the lies of the Evil One and has closed himself off from the love of God in the illusion of an impossible self-sufficiency" (cf. Jn 3,1-7). But in the sacrifice of the Cross, God continues to re-offer His love, His passion for man, with a force that, as the Pseudo-Dionisius says, "does not allow the lover to remain in himself but impels him to be united to the beloved" (De divinis nominibus, IV, 13; PG 3, 712), leading him to come and "beg" for love from His creature.

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