Tuesday Homily: Believing in the Love God Has For Us
Our Catholic faith, the faith in which each of us is called to grow during this Year of Faith, is fundamentally a faith in God who is in love with us to the extreme. Given the choice between having us perish in our sins or allowing himself to take on our flesh and be crucified as the Lamb of God to take away our sins, God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - showed his real essence as love by giving up his life to save ours.
To believe in God means to believe in this love. That's the essential message that St. John preached to the first Christians and that Pope Benedict has been trying to communicate to all of us since the beginning of his pontificate. The first encyclical a pope writes is normally a program for his pontificate, an indication of what he thinks is most timely and important for Christians to grasp and to live.
It's highly significant that in Pope Benedict's first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), he wrote boldly and clearly about how love is the "heart of the Christian," and the key to understand who God is and who we are. The Pope says that the "summary of the Christian life" of faith, the "fundamental decision" of the Christian life, is found in St. John's expression, "We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us." That's why he wanted in his first encyclical to write to us about "the love that God lavishes upon us and that we in turn must share with others."
We see that love enfleshed in the Gospel reading. When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart exploded with merciful love for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And then he did two things for them. It's easy to focus on the great miracle of the multiplication of the five rolls and two small fish, which is a foretaste of the even greater miracles of feeding contained in the Holy Eucharist and the eternal wedding banquet. But what I'd like to ponder today is the first of the two great deeds Jesus did, the one that in some ways was an even greater priority for him out of love for us.
St. Mark tells us that the first thing Jesus did was to "teach them many things." Jesus had come down from heaven to teach us the truth about God, the truth about God's love for us, and therefore the deep truth about who we are and whom we're called to be. This points to the reality that to teach the truth in love is one of the greatest acts of mercy. Without the truth, one remains blind and lost. This is one of the most important purposes of the Church and for every Catholic.
At St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, this truth is depicted very powerfully in art. At the very back of the basilica, one of the most famous pieces in art history is found, done by the great sculptor Bernini. It's called the "Altar of the Chair" and it was so beautiful and influential that art historians say it launched the baroque era.
At the top of the altar, there is the brilliant translucent image of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove surrounded by angels. The Holy Spirit is descending upon a huge bronze chair that houses what in the 16th century was believed to be the actual chair on which St. Peter used to teach the people of Rome. (Much like today when the judge gives his authoritative rulings from the "bench," in the ancient world, kings, magistrates, rulers used to teach and give formal pronouncements seated on a chair, which became a symbol of their authority.)
Peter's chair was the symbol of the teaching authority of the Church and particularly of the Popes, the successors of St. Peter, who are Christ's vicars on earth. The most formal teachings of the Church were called "ex cathedra," meaning literally from the chair. The Holy Spirit is descending upon the chair to depict that, according to Christ's promise, the Holy Spirit teaches the Church everything, leads us into the whole truth and reminds us of everything Christ has taught (Jn 14:26; Jn 16:13).
Sculpted onto the back-rest of the Chair, however, is what is most relevant to today's Gospel: it's a depiction of Peter's feeding Christ's sheep. This is a reference to the end of St. John's Gospel, when Jesus asked Peter three times, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" (Jn 21:15-17). After Peter three times had replied in the affirmative, Jesus responded, "Feed my lambs," "tend my sheep," and "feed my sheep." Peter's love for ...
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Year of Faith News
- TUESDAY HOMILY: Christian Perfection
- Does the Lord Really Mean We Are to Be Perfect?
- Pope Francis On Gospel of Life Sunday: Let Us Say Yes to Life!
- SUNDAY HOMILY: The Happy Priest - Thoughts on Fatherhood
- MONDAY HOMILY: When it Comes to Love, Super-size It
- OMG! LOL! NOT.
- Taking Custody of Your Heart
- Holding the Treasure in Earthen Vessels
- THURSDAY HOMILY: St. Anthony of Padua Reminds Us, Actions Speak Louder Than Words
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?