Summary: People need to hear the word of God and to see a vision of His plan in order to nurture both faith and love in their hearts, and to bring Christians together.
Thursday of First Week in Course 2014
Everyone who loves the parent loves the child, so we can’t say we love God and avoid loving our neighbor. We are all children of God, so we must love one another. In fact, one of the main reasons we come to hear the word and share the Body and Blood of Christ is to draw closer together as God’s family. The simplest ecclesiology I have ever agreed with is from James Joyce, who defined the Catholic church as “Here comes everybody.” It’s pretty simple. With Pope Francis we affirm that we are sinners–that’s the first thing we do when we gather here–sinners in need of salvation, and seeking to know how to grow into saints, seeking the Bread of Life to nourish us into sainthood.
Jesus comes to Nazareth with exactly that in mind. He must have constantly quoted Isaiah when asked who He thought He was: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." Then he told the Jews assembled there that the prophecy was fulfilled in their hearing. What that means is that their hearing of the word of God fulfilled the prophecy. Sin would be forgiven, sinners would be released from bondage, the physically and spiritually blind would all be healed, and an era of liberation, a jubilee year, would result. He is, of course, talking about the kingdom of God, and the reign of the Messiah. But they immediately asked “who is this guy?” even though he had just told them. They wanted to know how a mere carpenter’s son could make that kind of claim. Surely the real Messiah would manifest Himself as a secular ruler who would run the Romans out of town and restore the hegemony of Israel. Not this guy. He performed signs and wonders but always used those miracles to bolster His words, his teachings.
We’ve been considering the reality that faith engenders love, but love brings us a kind of knowledge that in turn strengthens our faith. The popes continue: “faith-knowledge is linked to the covenant with a faithful God who enters into a relationship of love with man and speaks his word to him.” Because of this, Scripture presents it as a form of hearing. “Saint Paul would use a formula which became classic: fides ex auditu, faith comes from hearing (Rom 10:17). Knowledge linked to a word is always personal knowledge; it recognizes the voice of the one speaking, opens up to that person in freedom and follows him or her in obedience. Paul could thus speak of the obedience of faith (cf. Rom 1:5; 16:26). Faith is also a knowledge bound to the passage of time, for words take time to be pronounced, and it is a knowledge assimilated only along a journey of discipleship. The experience of hearing can thus help to bring out more clearly the bond between knowledge and love.
“At times, where knowledge of the truth is concerned, hearing has been opposed to sight; it has been claimed that an emphasis on sight was characteristic of Greek culture. If light makes possible that contemplation of the whole to which humanity has always aspired, it would also seem to leave no space for freedom, since it comes down from heaven directly to the eye, without calling for a response. It would also seem to call for a kind of static contemplation, far removed from the world of history with its joys and sufferings. From this standpoint, the biblical understanding of knowledge would be antithetical to the Greek understanding, inasmuch as the latter linked knowledge to sight in its attempt to attain a comprehensive understanding of reality.
This alleged antithesis does not, however, correspond to the biblical datum. The Old Testament combined both kinds of knowledge, since hearing God’s word is accompanied by the desire
to see his face. The ground was thus laid for a dialogue with Hellenistic culture, a dialogue present at the heart of sacred Scripture. Hearing emphasizes personal vocation and obedience, and the fact that truth is revealed in time. Sight provides a vision of the entire journey and allows it to be situated within God’s overall plan; without this vision, we would be left only with unconnected parts of an unknown whole.” We need both hearing and seeing if we are to attain the faith-knowledge and the love-knowledge that will enable us to grow individually into “little Christs” so we can come together as the servant body of the “big Christ.”