“The human being does not trust God.” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI boldly states in a homily from the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. He goes on to unmask our conflicted inner situation in such clear terms that it may make you uneasy: 

“We have a lurking suspicion that a person who does not sin must really be basically boring and that something is missing from his life: the dramatic dimension of being autonomous; that the freedom to say no, to descend into the shadows of sin and to want to do things on one’s own is part of being truly human… that we should put this freedom to the test, even in opposition to God, in order to become, in reality, fully ourselves. In a word, we think that evil is basically good, we think that we need it, at least a little, in order to experience the fullness of being… We think that a little bargaining with evil, keeping for oneself a little freedom against God, is basically a good thing, perhaps even necessary. If we look, however, at the world that surrounds us we can see that this is not so; in other words, that evil is always poisonous, does not uplift human beings but degrades and humiliates them. It does not make them any the greater, purer or wealthier, but harms and belittles them.” 

We find ourselves tempted with the suspicion that God wants to take something from our life and we really don’t want to miss out on anything. So we hold back—and end up missing out. Or we may have an unnamed fear of this God who is willing to personally embrace suffering and death in order to bring good out of evil. We hold back—fearing what He may ask of us. Will I follow the voice of the tempter or will I move beyond fear and dare to believe that God is trustworthy? This choice is the turning point of every human life: “Will I entrust my life to Another or remain grasping, preferring the illusion of self-sufficiency and control?”

Too often this question goes unanswered. Times of great suffering or personal crisis have a way of helping us to see that only in an encounter with God, the living God, who has revealed His face in Jesus Christ, do we find the ability to respond and to trust. Jesus is near and is eager to be invited to walk with us and share our burden. 

Jesus shows us the only path to the true freedom and lasting joy we seek—the way of love. We find our true self, our best self, by giving ourselves away, by making a gift of our self to another. As wonderful and fulfilling as human love is, it still leaves us wanting. Even after I have experienced the liberating power of love and have been awakened to the wonder of living in a world in which I am prized and sought after; and have achieved the momentous task of redirecting my heart outward towards another, living in a way that I truly desire the good of another above my own – even then, I experience the limitations and fragility of human love. No matter how beautiful, this love cannot be the ultimate foundation of my hope because this love is subject to death.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI points the way to the love we long for, the great hope that does not disappoint. “Man’s great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God—God who has loved us and who continues to love us ‘to the end,’ until all ‘is accomplished’… The human being needs unconditional love. He needs the certainty which makes him say: ‘neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Rom 8:38- 39). If this absolute love exists, with its absolute certainty, then—only then—is man “redeemed”, whatever should happen to him in his particular circumstances. This is what it means to say: Jesus Christ has ‘redeemed’ us.”

 

Originally printed in IMPRINT Magazine Spring 2013.