“Love Until the End…..and Mercy!” World Meeting of Families 2015

by on September 23, 2015

This morning began with an excellent keynote address by Cardinal Robert Sarah, the prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments at the Vatican. Yesterday, the theme was very much focused on the imago dei within each person and seeing that imago not just as an indication of but also the means to accomplishing our mission. The mission, of course, is to spread that image of God back into a world which has very much forgotten him. Bishop Robert Barron’s term “re-Edenize” is perhaps the most appropriate for the task of the New Evangelization; we must, he said, bring back the order and justice of God that was present from the very beginning of creation in the Garden of Eden.

Today Cardinal Sarah gave some background to the imago dei and then built upon it. He reminded us that our need for community, that the deepest urge of man for communion and relationship with others, should not surprise us and should not be rejected. Why? Because the Christian God, the God who is Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit, is, at his essence, a community of persons! And if we are made in the image and likeness of that God, then community is simply part of our essence as human beings. We need community, but above all we need a family. The family is the first place where we learn what it means to be vulnerable and to be accepted, what it means to give someone else the benefit of the doubt with his or her shortcomings, and the first arena in which we learn what it means to give ourselves completely to someone else.

It is this fundamental truth, that we are built for community, which makes society’s trending toward more secular individualism and relativism so dangerous. Individualism is the lie that tells the person “all I need is me!” Relativism is the lie that says “I am the measure of my own reality; my universe goes according to my own definition of it.” These not-necessarily-modern but more-widespread-than-ever ideologies are destructive most of all because they are absolutely antithetical not only to who God is but also to who we are as human beings created in the image and likeness of God.

What is the solution? As Pope Francis has been saying since he was elected to the See of Peter, the answer is encounter. First an encounter with God, with the persons of the Holy Trinity through the sacraments of the Church and then through the beneficence of our neighbor. These things lead us, then, into an encounter with ourselves at the deepest level. We will see each other at the level of our woundedness, of our pain, of our gifts and strengths, and at the level of the heart where the image of God, like a faithful pilot light, burns on.

Combining this experience of encountering God and ourselves at the deepest level, we come to appreciate God’s mercy and his complete self-gift to us. We come to understand the words of St. John Paull II that we are “not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, but the sum of the Father’s love for us.” Cardinal Sarah urged us to “love until the end” and to show “mercy, always mercy.” As we engage and go deeper in that encounter with God the Holy Trinity, we come to a new level of self-knowledge, self-acceptance, and, ultimately, self-gift. It is this complete self-gift to Christ, the Church, and our brothers and sisters in the human family that will enable hearts to be opened, adversity to be crushed, and for the King of the family to reign forever in our hearts and in the world.

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