“We must build a civilization of love, or there will be no civilization at all.”
-Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston
Are we a world that still believes in the resurrection? I mean, we say we do every Sunday when we recite the Nicene Creed at Mass after the homily. But I’m pretty convinced that part of our world has given up on that idea, that idea that tells us that we are so unimaginably loved by God that he can’t stand that he would spend eternity without us, that he would give us a share in his life, that he would raise his own Son from the dead, and then give us a share in that life too. Trust me, I know it doesn’t really seem to have anything to do with “how the world really works,” but theologically, it sounds something like this:
God doesn’t need us. In fact, he didn’t need to create us, he doesn’t need to love us, and he doesn’t need us to be alive to praise him. After all, God is Three-In-One, the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God has all the love and perfection of relationship within God’s self, so what could he possibly need from us?
Ah, but that’s just it! He didn’t need to create us, but he did. We live and move and have our being in him (Acts 17:28), not because we’re a mistake, not because God needed to make us and would therefore be incomplete without us. No, God has made us as we are because he freely loves us into being!
And that’s not where it ends. There is no way we could come to know God, come to love God, come to experience God, if he had not made us, in all the wonder that is our humanity, to do just that. Can you love your friends and family if you were incapable of loving? Could you hear the words of love from your parents if you were deaf, or if they we unable to speak? We only know that God has revealed himself to us, has loved us, because he has loved us first (1 John 4:19), and made us capable of receiving that love.
Ok, so that’s what the head tells us about God, who is love (1 John 4: 8, 16). What do our hearts tell us? Do they tell us a different story? How much are our hearts crying out because of what we’ve seen in the news these last couple of weeks? How are you feeling affected by the mindless violence that ripped through Boston so recently? Have you heard anything about this poor man Gosnell (do not forget, my dear friends, to hate the sin, but love the sinner; yes, I know, a lot easier said than done, but our calling nonetheless), who has become the poster-child for everything hideous and wrong about abortion? Our world is in the midst of a serious identity crisis, one that has mistaken our human bodies and our human dignity for something biological and merely passing, like the dust of the earth.
But you, my dear friends who I very much look up to in faith and encouragement that our future is bright and that the Church will not give up its fight for love of the human person in all his or her beauty and dignity; this isn’t just my battle to fight through studying and preaching. We are in a beautiful, challenging, immensely challenging but even more tremendously beautiful, time to be alive. Because we get to stand up and show the world that death no longer reigns. The world can no longer wait for us to remind it that we believe in the resurrection, that all of what terrifies us most about death and sin is merely on the surface, something to be wiped away like a dirty window, when we let God truly act in our lives, through us, with us, for others, for a world that no longer believes in the resurrection.
The reason this is all on my heart, and not just in my head, these days is because this is what I’ve decided to focus the rest of my studies on, here at the Seminary. I’ve got an amazing opportunity to really integrate my studies into my spiritual life by adding a few more classes here and there and writing a thesis project that will culminate all my studies during my time here. I’ve decided that, indeed, I will study for a Masters of Arts (which is a little more work than the Masters of Divinity that is the requirement for ordination here) and write a thesis (instead of taking comprehensive exams at the end of my time here). All that technical stuff aside, what this means is that almost all the academic work I will be doing for the next four years will be concentrated on Biblical Studies, and I feel so called to really explore what it means when we say every Sunday that we believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and that we “await the resurrection of the dead and the life in the world to come.”
It’s just washing over me, grace by grace, that our world is in desperate need to be reminded of what it is that makes us humans so special, why it is God has singled us out, in all creation, to bear his image (genesis 1:27; 1 Corinthians 15: 49), and that this forgetfulness may very well be at the root of all the evils we’ve been seeing recently. So please pray for me during this time, and all the men here taking on different challenges academically, that we may not merely be seeking to fill our heads with knowledge, but that we may let our hearts be overwhelmed with love of God’s Word and God’s people, and that that may overflow so that you may all reap the abundance and the bountiful love and care that our God has for each and every one of us, created in his image, bound for resurrection.