Summary: There can be no tension between devoting ourselves to love of God and love of neighbor.
Thursday of 25th week in course 2015
Joy of the Gospel
There is a very old argument in the Church that contrasts what we owe to God with what we owe to our neighbor. These days, it goes like this: we don’t need ornate churches with lots of stone and pipeorgans and marble altars and Italian crucifixes, bells and fancy stained glass windows. Better to spend that money on the poor and have a simple little chapel that reflects a kind of Franciscan poverty and concern for the marginalized. The argument pits the two parts of the great commandment against each other–kind of like love God OR love your neighbor. Let’s get back to that in a bit, after considering that the prophet Haggai was essentially saying to the people of Israel, “what are you doing trying to enrich yourselves and get fat while the temple lies in ruins?”
The Holy Father has been talking about how to attract others to the Gospel and its joy, and has told us that “Catechesis is a proclamation of the word and is always centerd on that word, yet it also demands a suitable environment and an attractive presentation, the use of eloquent symbols, insertion into a broader growth process and the integration of every dimension of the person within a communal journey of hearing and response.”
He continues: ‘Every form of catechesis would do well to attend to the “way of beauty” (via pulchritudinis). Proclaiming Christ means showing that to believe in and to follow him is not only something right and true, but also something beautiful, capable of filling life with new splendor and profound joy, even in the midst of difficulties. Every expression of true beauty can thus be acknowledged as a path leading to an encounter with the Lord Jesus. This has nothing to do with fostering an aesthetic relativism which would downplay the inseparable bond between truth, goodness and beauty, but rather a renewed esteem for beauty as a means of touching the human heart and enabling the truth and goodness of the Risen Christ to radiate within it. If, as Saint Augustine says, we love only that which is beautiful, the incarnate Son, as the revelation of infinite beauty, is supremely lovable and draws us to himself with bonds of love. So a formation in the via pulchritudinis ought to be part of our effort to pass on the faith. Each particular Church should encourage the use of the arts in evangelization, building on the treasures of the past but also drawing upon the wide variety of contemporary expressions so as to transmit the faith in a new “language of parables” We must be bold enough to discover new signs and new symbols, new flesh to embody and communicate the word, and different forms of beauty which are valued in different cultural settings, including those unconventional modes of beauty which may mean little to the evangelizers, yet prove particularly attractive for others.
‘As for the moral component of catechesis, which promotes growth in fidelity to the Gospel way of life, it is helpful to stress again and again the attractiveness and the ideal of a life of wisdom, self-fulfilment and enrichment. In the light of that positive message, our rejection of the evils which endanger that life can be better understood. Rather than experts in dire predictions, dour judges bent on rooting out every threat and deviation, we should appear as joyful messengers of challenging proposals, guardians of the goodness and beauty which shine forth in a life of fidelity to the Gospel.’