Wednesday, February 27, 2013
The Pope on Love
During the papacy of Pope John Paul II, the media dubbed Cardinal Josef Ratzinger "God's Rottweiler." But when Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, he showed his softer side. At Christmastime, he appeared to pilgrims in the Vatican as "Santa Pope," a jovial figure in a red Santa cap (called a camauro). In his youth, little Josef wanted a teddy bear every Christmas, according to his brother's memoirs. This is the side of Pope Benedict XVI that I want to remember, a gentle man who was a champion of faith, hope, and love.
On this last day before Pope Benedict XVI's resignation, I want to share with you some lessons he taught me about the passionate, eternal love we all long for. Couples coming to be married in the Catholic Church (and already-married couples, too) should realize and revel in the depth of learning the Church can offer on love. The first encyclical issued by Pope Benedict XVI -- on Christmas Day, as it so happens -- was on the subject of love. Its Latin name was Deus Caritas Est, or God is Love. Here are just ten things I learned from it. If you read it yourself, you could learn many more.
1. God is madly in love with us. God's love, as described in the Bible, is passionate, forgiving, and "boldly erotic." Read the Song of Songs, if you don't believe it. Should our love for our spouse be anything less?
2. True love between a man and a woman brings ecstasy. This ecstasy is not merely a moment of intoxication, but a journey towards authentic self-discovery and, ultimately, the discovery of God.
3. Love is greater than sex and greater than instinct. When human beings love, we love with our bodies and our souls. Any lesser idea of love reduces humanity to the level of animals or even objects.
4. "Love promises infinity, eternity." God has written in our hearts a longing for his eternal love. As a reflection of God's love, love between a man and a woman provides "not just fleeting pleasure, but a certain foretaste of the pinnacle of our existence, of that beatitude [in heaven] for which our whole being yearns."
5. Love directs us toward marriage. The intensity of our desire for each other mirrors the intensity of humankind's desire for God. We cannot be satisfied by a love that is temporary or partial. Lifelong marriage fulfills the deepest purpose of human love, unity between one man, one woman, and one God.
6. God's love is an inexhaustible source of good will towards others. By receiving God's love in prayer, we become motivated and empowered "to attend constantly to other people's sufferings and needs." These other people include our spouse, our children, and our neighbors -- those who are close by and those who are far away.
7. We are obligated to share with others the love that God lavishes upon us. "Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself." Extending our love beyond our own families, we must offer people in need not only material help but also refreshment and care for their souls.
8. For the Church and for each individual Christian, works of charity are not optional. Charitable works are not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others. They are a part of our nature, and indispensable expression of our very being.
9. Care for the poor and needy cannot be left up to the government alone. "There is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. ... There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness." Who have you consoled today?
10. Love is never finished. It just keeps getting better.
We love you, Papa B. Pray for us!