Summary: Love is always lived out in body and in spirit
Thursday of Fourth Week in Course
All of us long for a world, a culture, of perfect justice, of perfect peace, where everyone is centered on doing the will of God, and no one is impoverished in spirit, soul or body. David got it, and the apostles preached it. When Jesus sent them out, He gave them their evangelizing orders: take nothing except a staff for support and protection against the wild animals. What did they do? They preached repentance. “Turn away from sin and follow the Word of God.” Change hearts and society changes, one person at a time. Why would people do that on the words of the apostles? They saw the joy, peace, and love on their faces, just as they saw in the countenance of the Lord. We can’t impose the will of God on people, because the human heart is selfish and rebellious. But if we allow God to change our hearts, change our countenance, we can attract others to follow God’s will in Christ. And that heals spirit, soul and body. That has the power to heal a culture of death, once those fooled by that culture hear and see and repent.
The popes tell us that the light of faith shines forth from the countenance of Christ: “The light becomes, so to speak, the light of a word, because it is the light of a personal countenance, a light which, even as it enlightens us, calls us and seeks to be reflected on our faces and to shine from within us. Yet our longing for the vision of the whole, and not merely of fragments of history, remains and will be fulfilled in the end, when, as Augustine says, we will see and we will love. Not because we will be able to possess all the light, which will always be inexhaustible, but because we will enter wholly into that light.
“The light of love proper to faith can illumine the questions of our own time about truth. Truth nowadays is often reduced to the subjective authenticity of the individual, valid only for the life of the individual. A common truth intimidates us, for we identify it with the intransigent demands of totalitarian systems. But if truth is a truth of love, if it is a truth disclosed in personal encounter with the Other and with others, then it can be set free from its enclosure in individuals and become part of the common good. As a truth of love, it is not one that can be imposed by force; it is not a truth that stifles the individual. Since it is born of love, it can penetrate to the heart, to the personal core of each man and woman. Clearly, then, faith is not intransigent, but grows in respectful coexistence with others. One who believes may not be presumptuous; on the contrary, truth leads to humility, since believers know that, rather than ourselves possessing truth, it is truth which embraces and possesses us. Far from making us inflexible, the security of faith sets us on a journey; it enables witness and dialogue with all.
“Nor is the light of faith, joined to the truth of love, extraneous to the material world, for love is always lived out in body and spirit; the light of faith is an incarnate light radiating from the luminous life of Jesus. It also illumines the material world, trusts its inherent order and knows that it calls us to an ever widening path of harmony and understanding. The gaze of science thus benefits from faith: faith encourages the scientist to remain constantly open to reality in all its inexhaustible richness. Faith awakens the critical sense by preventing research from being satisfied with its own formulae and helps it to realize that nature is always greater. By stimulating wonder before the profound mystery of creation, faith broadens the horizons of reason to shed greater light on the world which discloses itself to scientific investigation.”
I am only a sinner hoping to become a saint, but every once and a while somebody says something that gives me hope. At school very few people know that I am Catholic clergy, so when I led the baptisms last year, and one of the school families was in attendance, they expressed real surprise. But the student said, “you know, I knew there was something about you.” In other words, to the extent that we repent and hear God’s word and allow ourselves to see God’s vision, we can attain something like the attractive countenance of Jesus. Then all we need to do is love those around us actively, and they will see, and hear, and ask “why do I smile every time I see you”?”