Sunday 31 January 2016

Lessons from the Year of Consecrated Life

What have we learnt from this year dedicated to Consecrated life?

Certainly, that CL cannot be lived in an individual key, but together. We are community, and community expands in concentric circles: our local community, our congregation perhaps, other institutes, the church, monks of other denominations and even religions, as the Pope explicitly mentions in his first letter, and all people finally. Cardinal Braz is strong on fraternity as rooted in Trinity - our deepest truth.

That, nonetheless, individuality and diversity remain and are to be celebrated! Even though we are called to follow Jesus in his very form of life, we do not become carbon copies of him. Peter was not Paul, and not John; Albert is not Thomas, and Francis is not Ignatius. The Lord is deeper to me than my deepest, and I am called to that kind of "being knit" - like the soul of Jonathan knit to the soul of David - and yet I do not lose my individuality. Much less do I become a carbon copy of Don Bosco.

That we are called to joy! That is the meaning of living already now the life of the resurrection. "Like the angels in heaven, neither marrying nor giving in marriage - because completely filled with God." Virginity, the deepest truth of the human body. Difficult to understand, even more difficult to accept, in the face of the overwhelming truth of the demands and imperatives of the body - and yet, in the end, this direction, this truth, which Jesus incarnates. With fascination. With glory.

That ongoing formation is the mother-idea of formation, and not something that "comes after" initial formation.

That contemplation is a way of life, and not something that we do - or that happens - only in private moments.

That beauty is a way to God. That God is Beauty. 

Privileged places of ongoing formation

Cencini spoke of relationships, ministry and the world as privileged places of ongoing formation. 

Relationships challenge all of us in a special way, bringing out our best and our worst. Which means religious community is a special and privileged place for growth - a "continuous novitiate." 

Interesting, he mentioned also the ministry. For us salesians, the dialectic between "showing God" and "seeing God." We are called to show God, to be signs and bearers of his love. We are also called to see God in those to whom we are sent - simply because God has "beaten us to it," he is there before us, working in the young, in those to whom we are sent. So it is part of formation to "discern": to recognize the working of the Spirit.

And then "the world." Don't complain about the world. It is the place where God is, where he speaks, from which he speaks, in which he speaks. So: scrutate: discern: keep your eyes open to see, your ears open to hear what he is saying.

So instead of lamenting and complaining about the internet, we probably ought to see it as what theologians like to call "a theological locus." Or maybe not exactly a theological locus, but certainly something through which God is telling us something. It could well be that it is the great temptation: it is the temptation of Jesus: throw yourself down, submit, I will give you the whole world. With the internet, the whole world is literally at my fingertips - all I have to do is click. And, like Jesus, I am called to face this great temptation with silence, and with the word of God. Impressive how Jesus does not use his own words, he entrusts himself only to the word of God.

The point is that any life situation can mediate God’s action. When I say, “If only I had a better community, if only I were elsewhere,” I am betraying a deep-seated paganism. Life speaks – always, everywhere. All moments are formative. “My grace is sufficient for you” means that his grace is present everywhere and always, in all situations. It is important to live these moments. “Hacer experiencia.” 

Miguel Marquez Calle's story of the crane's nest: made of sticks, plastic, rubbish, every possible thing. Our life with God, our life before God - everything goes into it. Everything is part of it. Everywhere God. 

And so: not docility but docibilitas, which Cencini explains as "learning to obey - or discern and do - in all situations" - and not simply when one is explicitly told, by someone who is a superior, to do this or that. Docibilitas: the ability to be taught, the ability to learn, having acquired the capacity to learn, learning how to learn, learning from life (C 118). Discerning the voice of God and the action of the Spirit everywhere, at all times. From just any experience at all. From boredom in the evening; from mild or not so mild depression. From excessive and burdensome work. From failure. From lack of appreciation. From lack of results. 


Saturday 30 January 2016

Virginity - truth of the body

Another "sutra" from Cencini: virginity, "annuncio della verità del corpo umano." Proclamation of the truth of the human body. The body is made for God. It cannot rest until it rests in God. No creature can satisfy our craving for love. Only God can. So, strangely, there is a space for virginity in every heart. And consecrated people are the ones who choose, who are chosen, to live virginity to witness to this truth.


The scandals of sexual abuse of minors, said Cencini, need to be properly read. They are not "something that happened to some unfortunate few," not even "terrible things that were done by a few." They are indications of the mediocrity of the majority. They are indications of the way we have lived our virginity.

Ongoing formation, perseverance and fidelity

Amadeo Cencini spoke for almost two hours this morning, in one of the aulae of the Lateran University, Rome, on ongoing formation, formazione permanente. A volcano. When he began, it was so casual that no one realized he had begun. The first remark: the difference between perseverance and fidelity. A distinction that Tony D'Souza had drawn for us young prenovices, I think, years and years ago, one of those distinctions that remain in the head: not enough to persevere, not enough to say, I want to die a Salesian; what is important is fidelity. But Cencini added a fresh new note: fidelity, he said, is relational, whereas perseverance is not necessarily so, could very well tend to be something that I decide to do for myself. Fidelity, relational: wonderful. Just like the difference between Choice and Call: the latter is utterly relational, the former is not, and is very much a phenomenon of the individual-centred individualistic culture spawned in the modern West.


REJOICE! KEEP WATCH! CONTEMPLATE!

For those who are not aware of this: The CIVCSA (the Vatican department dealing with consecrated life) has brought out three "circular letters" - booklets, really - the first entitled REJOICE!, the second called KEEP WATCH!, the third CONTEMPLATE. 

Opening up fresh perspectives on consecrated life. The third letter, for example, is dedicated to BEAUTY: its subtitle is "To consecrated men and women on the trail of Beauty." And tomorrow evening, as part of the ongoing Congress for Consecrated men and women, there is a "Via pulchritudinis," which is a guided tour through the Sistine Chapel: "contemplation of humanity redeemed in Christ."

The first letter, REJOICE! (Rallegratevi, in Italian), explains why Archbishop Carballo, secretary of the CIVCSA, dedicated his homily during the opening vigil to the beatitudes - not only the ones found in the two versions of the Sermon on the Mount, but also the others scattered through the gospels: "Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it," for example. 

The second letter - it is SCRUTATE in Italian, which I suppose is ESCRUTAR in Spanish. I was not able to buy the English text, but I've found the text on the net: KEEP WATCH! with the subtitle "To consecrated men and women journeying in the footsteps of God." "Ai consacrati e alle consacrate in cammino sui segni di Dio."

So joy, vigilance, beauty as fresh paths for opening up the gift that is consecrated life. 

Thursday 28 January 2016

Austen Ivereigh, The Great Reformer

The Ivereigh book on Bergoglio: The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope: interesting, but not excellent. He does not really understand how religious life functions. He gives Bergoglio, as rector of the Maximo, credit for the large number of students. Bergoglio perhaps as provincial was responsible for a particular vocation ministry, but not as rector… He makes him also responsible for the “parish”. There seems to be no division of labour among his team members. Whatever.

The difficulties with his congregation: more serious and prolonged than I imagined. I thought it was just with one person, the new provincial. Instead, it seems to be with the whole “dominant” trend, up to Kolvenbach. Bergoglio seen as out of line with the rest of the congregation. And then the “reconciliation” after the papal election, the personal call to Nicolas…



Wednesday 27 January 2016

Formators and attitude

"The first reform must be the attitude." (Pope Francis in his interview to Civiltà Cattolica. See Austen Ivereigh, The Great Reformer 169) Absolutely the first point for formators: attitude towards the formees. What is my attitude?

This is somewhat complex. Not possessiveness; not "defending at all costs." Not the paternalism that can suffocate by excessive attention. But yes, the attitude: positive. As Rossano Sala said: if you don't have fiducia in the young, better quit. No place among the Salesians for you.

"Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect," He said. "Be merciful as he is merciful." And Francis: the Church, first a tender mother, merciful, only then rule-maker and regulator. Or better: tender merciful mother rather than rule-maker and regulator. (ibid.)

Francis' Jesuit model, interestingly, is Peter Faber! (Ivereigh 171) Faber, of the three original companions, is the gentle man of dialogue - and so of a kind with Francis de Sales and with Don Bosco. 

Friday 22 January 2016

Salesian Spiritual Exercises

This morning, the idea of translating all the Tables of Contents of the 4 or so volumes of Rossi de Gasperis' Sentieri di Vita. With the aim of getting to know, understand, the dynamic of the volumes, and of the Spiritual Exercises which underlie them.

What is the dynamic of the SE?
and even before that: What is their goal?

With regard to a possible set of Salesian Spiritual Exercises (SSE):
What is our goal? - The goal of 'formation' understood without brackets - which means, in the way the Constitutions understand it, as covering the whole of life, as permanent and ongoing - is "conformation to Christ".
What dynamic to adopt?

We take for granted GRACE - it is given, abundantly, at all times, to all people, by the Father.
we seek to accompany only the RESPONSE to grace.

In our postmodern world (and does this include India?) we need help the awareness (i.e. identification) of grace. We cannot take it for granted that our young people, and our young confreres, know the meaning of grace, are able to identify the presence and working of the love of God in their lives.

For whom the SSE?
for prenovices, novices, postnovices?
for principianti, therefore?

But what about the Salesian who is already sailing on the waters, far from port?
for ME, where I am, where I find myself? (starting point of metaphysics in Insight: people as they are)
(Voegelin: we are always in the middle. Between the A and the Omega, as RdG would say.)

Why is one touched by these exercises (RdG)? Because of the need to take stock, to secure the course.
Because of a vague stirring or a passionate one, the need for love. The "intuition of loss" (Lawrence), the awareness of emptiness. Mid-life crisis. The longing yearning wanting to be filled, to fill, to be fulfilled, to fulfill. "Who is it that loves you, baby" (Lawrence) Or simply: where do you get the love you need? 

Saturday 16 January 2016

Don Bosco and Christ

Salesians - accused often of concentrating so much on Don Bosco as to forget Christ. And there is some truth in that, because Christ can never be forgotten. But I was thinking also, that if we are all called to put on Christ, to be transformed and transfigured into Christ, we should not be surprised to find, every now and then in the church and outside it, outstanding figures of humanity, people who shine, who are resplendent, who are simply attractive and who draw us. Bruno Ferrero was talking about the way the youngsters wanted to be around don Bosco, and the way people, old, young, wanted to touch the casket of Don Bosco during its pilgrimage around the world. And I was thinking, I could not help recalling, how Rossi de Gasperis talks about pilgrims in the Holy Land touching, embracing, caressing the very stones....

Giornate di Spiritualità Salesiana 2016

The "Giornate di Spiritualità Salesiana" (Salesian Spirituality Week, sort of) these days at the Pisana. Yesterday, wonderful interventions by Sr Maria Ko, FMA and Fr Bruno Ferrero, SDB, editor of the Bolletino Salesiano. There is some argument between the historians of Don Bosco and the narrators like Bruno, but I recall the words of Egidio Viganò: the Don Bosco of reality is greater than the Don Bosco of history - which I take to mean, not that history is not important, but that it is one among many modes of expression. For the Giornate, what Bruno did was not only good but outstanding: an outstanding feat of communication, which brought Don Bosco alive. (He was presenting Don Bosco with the categories of "Life Coaching" which, I am told, is all the rage in the US.)
Three others presented three figures of Salesian sanctity: Alberto Marvelli (Elisabetta Casadei), Giuseppe Quadrio (Ludovica Maria Zanet), and Mamma Margaret (Pier Luigi Cameroni). Alberto Marvelli - extraordinary young man who seems to have died at the age of 28 - with a marvellously full life. He was "Assessore" in charge of reconstruction of his destroyed in the war city of Rimini when he died. All at the age of 28. He had given up a lucractive job at Fiat in order to get back to the youth of his Oratory, and he gave up his membership in Catholic Action in order to join the newly formed Democrazia Cristiana - a young man who understood that politics could be a vocation, a "high form of pastoral charity."

Wednesday 6 January 2016

Rossi de Gasperis, Freedom from ourselves in the loving following of Jesus

Francesco Rossi de Gasperis, Sentieri di vita: La dinamica degli Esercizi ignaziani nell'itinerario delle Scritture, 2.2. Seconda Settimana, Seconda Parte (Milano: Paoline Editoriale Libri, 2007) 540-46. Ottavo giorno.  

III

Annotations / VIII

FREEDOM FROM OURSELVES IN THE LOVING FOLLOWING OF JESUS

Instruction


1. TO BECOME A DISCIPLE OF JESUS IS TO BECOME MYSELF IN LOVE

In the light of what we have so far known and have come to know of the person and consciousness of Jesus, let us try to become more and more aware of what we have become, involved as we are in the process of the loving and irrevocable following of him.
Jesus has become the principle not only of our behaviour but of our being. It is impossible to reduce him to formulas, to written or oral rules of conduct, to laws and to normative examples, to propositions and principles, to an ideal or a system of values. Such impossibility, however, does not mean that the influence and the conditioning that we receive from his person remains vague or indeterminate.
When someone conditions me to such an extent that I am afraid to be myself and different from him, it is a sign that I have become dependent, subject to an oppression that alienates me from myself. [540.]
Very different is the loving conditioning that conquers me freely, the conditioning on the part of a person who loves me and who I love, who longs for me and who I long for, to whom I want to belong and who wants to belong to me, like the soul of Jonathan ‘being knit’ (niqeshrah) to the soul of David to the point of loving him as he loved himself (1Sam 18,1). This is a question of a person who I know from within, who I esteem and revere, who fascinates me and with whom I am madly in love, who embraces me and by whom I enjoy being embraced, who seduces me and I allow myself to be seduced (cf Jer 20,7), and in whom – here we need to add a final qualitative leap – I feel, in some way, to have met GOD!
This is a being-in-love that is analogous to the most intense and passionate human love, but that nonetheless transcends in intensity and permanence every love of a creature, because my belonging is without conditions and limits. No other person, man or woman, has the right to possess me like this, as God possesses me, making of me a new man.
We have followed Jesus up to this point, we have accompanied him and have seen him face many confrontations, lack of trust, judgments and abstentions of judgment, superficial enthusiasms and ‘interested’ ones, and many abandonments. No one, however, has known him and reached him in his being as we who have believed and still believe in him, and who by this faith know him, in the same way that he was known by Mary of Bethany, Zacchaeus, Simon Peter and his companions:

66 After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. 67 Jesus said to the twelve, “Will you also go away?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (Jn 6,66-69)

‘We have left all things and have followed you.’ (Lk 18,28)[1]

We contemplate GOD in Jesus, the Holy One of God, in such a way that the divine criteria and ways take root in us in virtue of a profound sympathy that the Spirit creates between him and us; and in such a way that they condition us, call out to us and torment us when we are not in harmony with them, when we move away from them to assert our own ways and criteria; and console and encourage us, instead, when we remain in harmony with them.  Every dissonance between us and the Spirit of Jesus becomes unbearable, out of love and not out of a mere sense of duty or an egoistic sense of guilt.
Jesus is the cantus firmus of God in us. D. Bonhoeffer writes to his friend E. Bethge:

God and his eternity want to be loved with the whole of our heart; not in a way that earthly love is compromised, but in a certain sense like cantus firmus, with respect to which the other voices of life are a counterpoint.[2]

[Cantus firmus. I think of the Indian ektara, with the single note that keeps sounding all through the performance, terra firma, so that the musicians and singers might not wander away from it. I think also of Lonergan’s room filled with music, and we ignorant of the source.]

Seduction, falling in love, irrevocable belonging, following…. Trying to speak of Jesus and us, we certainly need to use earthly analogies, but in the end the bond between him and us transcends every analogy. His person has become our consciousness, the ‘I’ that is deeper than our very own selves.
This does not mean, however, that we ought to try and copy all that he said and did, or that we should try to repeat his words and his actions. Just the opposite: following him as his disciple, I finally feel free to be myself. This liberation is produced by his presence, it is inspired by his person.
Jesus is the inner inspiration of all that is born of him in his Churches, not because he teaches us to do the things he did, but because starting from him and from attachment to him, each one has become truly himself, and the Church has flowered like a garden of irreducible personal identities: Simon Peter the fisherman turned pastor, and John, the beloved disciple; Paul, the Pharisee rejected by the Jews for being not devoted enough to the Torah and too open to the Gentiles, and James, the head of the Church of the Circumcision, killed by the Jews for being a relative of Jesus and far too attached to him. In truth, loving attachment to the person of Jesus, Messiah and Lord (articulated in the notes of the one polyphonic New Testament), and not any abstract ‘Christian’ ideology, lived in the different historical happenings of their existence and following of Jesus, was the secret of the persons and of the common fraternal destiny of Peter and of John, of Paul and of James. The one person of Jesus (more than his ‘doctrine’) was the ‘rule’ of Anthony the Copt and of Pachomius, of Basil and of Benedict, of Augustine and of Jerome, of Cyril and of Methodius and of Bernard, of Dominic and of Francis, of Brigitte and of Catherine of Siena, of Ignatius and of Francis Xavier, of Teresa of Avila and of John of the Cross, of Teresa of Lisieux and of Edith Stein…. [542-43.]
Where, then, will I find the will of the Lord for me, the key to my identity that unfolds over the course of my history? Not in any single page of the Gospels, not in any Constitution written without me, nor in any decision taken for me by some ‘spiritual father,’ but in prolonged contemplation of the consciousness heart of Jesus, grasped in the unitary and unwritten understanding of the New Testament and reached by prolonged exposure to the light and heat of the sun that is Christ the Lord. The will of the Lord emerges within me when, purified from sin and from the idolatry of my self, and exposed to “the rising sun that comes to visit us from on high” (Lk 1,78-79), I feel inspired (by the Holy Spirit) to follow him in a way that I feel is good for me (cf Rom 12,1-2). My vocation is finally Jesus Christ: allowing him to be fully in me and I in him, in a communion of identification. [543.]

[Is it possible that, for many people, their experience of passion, of crazy, disordinate affection, might actually leave them open to the language that Rossi de Gasperis is using? That it might reveal the abysmal emptiness, the wounds and the woundedness, the unbearable need?
Then there is the “intuition of loss” that Fred Lawrence speaks about, and this too can lay us open. 
The Synod on the Family (2014-15) probably also calls us to the rediscovery of the body as a locus theologicus, a place where God reveals himself. “With my body I worship the Lord. The body that is my vocation, the body, this space, this matter that has been entrusted to me, this body that is my joy and my pain, the source of my delight and of unbearable pain, this body that is my history, all that I am, my existence. This body is called to be involved in the logical sacrifice, the spiritual sacrifice. This is the surrender.”
"I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship [loghike latreia hymon, not pneumatike latreia hymon; it should be translated “worship according to the Word” - literally, logical sacrifice, but that does not communicate at all.].  (Rom 12,1)]

Certainly there will emerge negativities and limitations, and it is important that they arise from within me. I must feel that certain things are not permissible in a disciple of Jesus; they must not even come to mind (cf. Eph 5,3-20). Perhaps I will not understand this immediately! Even the disciples, going around with Jesus, would sometimes come out with things that were inopportune and even diabolic (Lk 9,54-55).[3] So we should not be surprised if there arise within us ideas that are out of place and even unhealthy, but which to us seem quite okay and in keeping with our following of the Lord. A continuous and prolonged familiarity with him will slowly clean us up from within, even if slowly and imperfectly, we who are so full of imperfections.
On the positive side there is an indefinite wealth of creativity that arises from a close communion with the Lord. No one can give us rules in this mater, but we can and should take fraternal counsel from some spiritual person. Today we speak much of discernment and community evaluation. We must be very careful, however, that such a community is, in fact, and not only by right, a spiritual and truly evangelical community. Often, in fact, a community tends to keep down, if not extinguish, the fervour of individuals. The great reforms of community, including those of the Church, begin normally with the devotion and fervour of a few individuals. In any case, however, the community will be a place of discernment of the Spirit, if it lives in the Spirit and not in the Flesh. When, instead, the community is unspiritual, even if it may not be always necessary or opportune to abandon it, it will be necessary to increase even more our personal fidelity to the Spirit, taking help even from outside the community.
The assistance given by others, however, will never be definitve. The only true guarantee, even if not written in any recipe, will be the prolonged contemplation of Jesus and his Gospel. This was the way of Ignatius at Manresa and Charles de Foucauld at Nazareth.
We have spoken here of the passionate love between Jesus and us his disciples, insisting strongly on interiority, on freedom and on the spontaneity of our commitment to him. This does not mean that we set aside or underestimate the importance of external rules and norms. Given our human weaknesses and fragility, these are meant to protect and defend the commitment of which we have been speaking (cf. ES 370).
Still, the real grace of the Gospel and of the New Testament is the absolute primacy of the true and pure love and of the liberty that come from the person of Jesus and are inherent in the freedom he keeps renewing in us, calling us to be his disciples (Jn 8,31).

2. THE EROS WITH WHICH GOD LOVES US IN CHRIST CRUCIFIED AND RISEN

In the introduction to the pope’s message for Lent 2007, we come across statements about agape-eros – so dear to Pope Benedict XVI – that echo some of the things we have been saying.

[Wonderful to find RdG using this text which José Luis Plascencia used in the retreat he gave to General Chapter 26, and the wonderful reading he made of the Don Bosco’s spirituality and the Preventive System.]

Taking off from the Johannine verse, “They shall look upon him whom they have pierced” (Jn 19,37), the Lenten reflection of Pope Ratzinger invites Christians to remain with Mary and John near Him who on the cross consummates the sacrifice of his life for the whole of humanity (cf. Jn 19,25). Dying crucified on Calvary, Jesus Christ reveals to us the full extent of the love of God. In his encyclical Deus caritas est Benedict XVI had already highlighted the two fundamental forms of this love: agape and eros.

The term agape, which appears many times in the New Testament, indicates the self-giving love of one who looks exclusively for the good of the other. The word eros, on the other hand, denotes the love of one who desires to possess what he or she lacks and yearns for union with the beloved. The love with which God surrounds us is undoubtedly agape. Indeed, can man give to God some good that he does not already possess? All that the human creature is and has is divine gift. It is the creature, then, who is in need of God in everything. But God's love is also eros. In the Old Testament, the Creator of the universe manifests toward the people whom he has chosen as his own a predilection that transcends every human motivation. The prophet Hosea expresses this divine passion with daring images such as the love of a man for an adulterous woman (cf. 3: 1-3). For his part, Ezekiel, speaking of God's relationship with the people of Israel, is not afraid to use strong and passionate language (cf. 16: 1-22). These biblical texts indicate that eros is part of God's very Heart: the Almighty awaits the "yes" of his creatures as a young bridegroom that of his bride. Unfortunately, from its very origins, mankind, seduced by the lies of the Evil One, rejected God's love in the illusion of a self-sufficiency that is impossible (cf. Gn 3: 1-7). Turning in on himself, Adam withdrew from that source of life who is God himself, and became the first of "those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage" (Heb 2: 15). God, however, did not give up. On the contrary, man's "no" was the decisive impulse that moved him to manifest his love in all of its redeeming strength.

The pope continues, talking about the Cross as the revelation of the full extent of the love of God.

Death, which for the first Adam was an extreme sign of loneliness and powerlessness, was thus transformed in the supreme act of love and freedom of the new Adam. One could very well assert, therefore, together with St Maximus the Confessor, that Christ "died, if one could say so, divinely, because he died freely" (Ambigua, 91, 1056). On the Cross, God's eros for us is made manifest. Eros is indeed, as Pseudo-Dionysius expresses it, that force which "does not allow the lover to remain in himself but moves him to become one with the beloved" (De Divinis Nominibus, IV, 13: PG 3, 712). Is there more "mad eros" (N. Cabasilas, Vita in Cristo, 648) than that which led the Son of God to make himself one with us even to the point of suffering as his own the consequences of our offences? …

Dear brothers and sisters, let us look at Christ pierced on the Cross! He is the unsurpassing revelation of God's love, a love in which eros and agape, far from being opposed, enlighten each other. On the Cross, it is God himself who begs the love of his creature: He is thirsty for the love of every one of us. The Apostle Thomas recognized Jesus as "Lord and God" when he put his hand into the wound of his side. Not surprisingly, many of the saints found in the Heart of Jesus the deepest expression of this mystery of love. One could rightly say that the revelation of God's eros toward man is, in reality, the supreme expression of his agape. In all truth, only the love that unites the free gift of oneself with the impassioned desire for reciprocity instils a joy which eases the heaviest of burdens. Jesus said: "When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself" (Jn 12: 32). The response the Lord ardently desires of us is above all that we welcome his love and allow ourselves to be drawn to him. Accepting his love, however, is not enough. We need to respond to such love and devote ourselves to communicating it to others. Christ "draws me to himself" in order to unite himself to me, so that I learn to love the brothers with his own love.[4]

The love with which God loves us in Christ, therefore, surpasses both distinterested agape and a possessive and objectifying kind of eros; it goes beyond the spousal love that is anxious to institutionalize itself in matrimony,[5] as also the passionate extra-marital affair. It transcends the friendly affection that demands a heterosexual or homosexual relationship. It is the unique and eternal embrace between the Creator and his creature, the Maker of the Covenant with his beloved, more exhilarating than any human embrace. [546.]*





[1] Cf. Mt 19,27; Mk 10,28.
[2] Resistenza e resa. Lettere e scritti dal carcere, ed. Eberhard Bethge, Italian tr. and ed. A. Gallas, Classici del pensiero cristiano, 2 (Cinisella Balsamo, Milano: San Paolo, 19962) 373-374.
[3] Cf. Mt 16,22-23; Mk 8,32-33.
[4] From the Vatican, 21 November 2006. (Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticano, 2006). See Avvenire (14 February 2007) 5.
[5] Through which a woman is destined to nourish solely the love of a wife, and a man the love of a husband.

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