Father Michael F. X. Hinkley
Every human being has the innate ability to know the fundamental philosophical truth of his or her existence: I am alive and therefore I am. This simple beginning point of any philosophical construct is the primordial launch of Christian theology. Once we admit that we exist and that God created us, we dont have far to go to understand ourselves as beings uniquely and wonderfully created out of the true and free love of God. Go slowly here; while its easy to recite the verse that love is mans origin, greatest desire and destiny, its entirely another thing to live ones life fully aware of the primacy of being the beloved of the Creator.
In this way, we come to understand that to question the meaning of life is eventually to recall ones relationship with God. Pope John Paul II went even further, saying: Thus, it is true that a human being, the visible image of an invisible God, cannot answer the question about who he or she is without at the same time declaring who his or her God is. The unique dignity of the human being is intricately tied to the God who created him or her. Here we discover that God tries to make it easier on us by becoming like us and affirming our dignity in the divine image. Thus, the greatest affirmation of Gods love that we have as human beings is the fact that God become man in Jesus Christ.
With this understanding of being created in love and again affirmed in the Nativity of the Christ, we eventually must face the questions that naturally arise from considering the meaning of a life that is so profoundly loved. In other words, its fine and good that we can, on some basic measure, appreciate that God created us out of love and demonstrated the depth of that love in the person of Jesus, but what really matters is how that knowledge changes our way of looking at life. How are we changed by love?
We have established that a Christian can never hope to resolve fully such difficult questions regarding lifes meaning or what it means to be a human being without concretely referring to the existence of the great and all-loving God and Gods relation to humankind. St. Ignatius developed this understanding as his First Principle and Foundation. Ignatius explains: We were created to praise, reverence and serve God our Lord, and thus to save our souls. Other things that exist in this world were created for us, to help us secure the end for which we were created. Properly understood, for St. Ignatius, the foundation of our life is intrinsically linked to the Creator and the Creators great, merciful love for us.
I propose that when you and I live aware of having been loved for who we are, an experience not of our making but as the result of Gods great and all-encompassing love, we receive life as a gift. Thus, as everyone learns from an attentive mother, when we receive a gift, we are to acknowledge it with a sincere thank you. Can we not, then, conclude that if we know we are loved in some basic way, that our response to that gift is our discipleship as Christians?
In appreciating that we come to know love first by having been loved, we find the path by which we can live a loving existence. By creating us out of love, God intends us to become ministers of that same love to others. As the Scripture teaches us, we are to love as Christ already has loved us. We love in response to having been loved; this is how blessed we are. God doesnt simply love us but calls for us to dwell in that love. We are loved so that we can truly love others. This is for everyone an ironic experience as he or she finds the ability to see the beatitudes as Gods way of love. Now the downtrodden are blessed, the lonely consoled and those without possessions endowed with heavenly treasure.
The grace we have considered is being loved for who I am. This grace builds within the believer the affirming notion that God loves the true me that God created, the me that was redeemed and saved by Christ and the one now called to love others as God loves me. The love of God leads to my own salvation and calls me to pass that Good News along to my brothers and sisters.
Father Hinkley is pastor of the Parish Church and School of the Blessed Sacrament and rector of the Shrine of St. Anne for Mothers in Waterbury.