Faith & Thought

Mystery of Love Is Enriched And Deepened by Our Faith

In his “What Is God?: How to Think About the Divine” (Paulist Press, New York, 1986, 143 pp.) John Haught suggests that religion is adventure. I love that idea, but I wonder how many of us think of religion as adventure. 

It seems to me it is the greatest adventure because it involves the most important meanings, mysteries, and truths. It is also the most exciting and beautiful adventure. What is at stake? Salvation and redemption. 

The adventure is allowing our love relationship with God to influence our daily lives. I don’t think that anyone has claimed that this is easy, but it does not involve picking ourselves up by our bootstraps and making our efforts with no guidelines. We are not alone. 

Religion at its best is always about truth. Haught points out that whenever we come upon a new idea or what seems to be a new insight, we usually have two questions. 

The first question concerns understanding. We want to know the meaning of the idea or the insight. But this question is almost always followed by another. Once we understand the new idea or insight we immediately ask if it is true. 

The desire to know the truth may be the strongest desire we have. While the new idea or insight might be initially interesting, if it is not true, we quickly lose interest. I find it difficult to imagine anyone knowingly basing his or her life on falsehoods. 

Religion is about the most important truths. What am I doing in a homily on a Sunday morning but presenting a vision of God and a vision of the human person that I believe to be true? I am urging members of the congregation to incorporate those truths into their lives and to live by them. 

And I do that as someone who is involved in the same adventure as the members of the congregation. I don’t think that it is an accident that what I preach to the congregation is often a message that I think I should hear. 

At a Eucharistic celebration, after reflecting on the truths that we are trying to make the central message about who we are, we celebrate those truths by offering ourselves with the risen Christ to the Father. 

In his “Power and the Spirit of God: Toward an Experience-Based Pneumatology (Oxford University Press, 2004, 209 pp.), Bernard Cooke, stressing the importance of truth, writes the following: 

“It is basic to Christianity and to other great religions that people strive to live in truth. This means much more than not telling lies; it is more than accuracy of understanding or certitude; it is all that but also the attempt to respond authentically to the circumstances of life as they unfold. 

“It is to accept humbly what is instead of trying to pretend or create what I would wish it to be. It means accepting my virtues and gifts and also my mistakes and sins. It means being patiently aggressive, neither exaggerating my role in society nor pretending that I am not as gifted or successful as I actually am. 

“Perhaps most important, it means accepting our human dependence upon one another, accepting responsibility for others, for the ‘neighbor,’ at the same time that I acknowledge gratefully the necessary support received from others. Another way of approaching this is to reevaluate the meaning of ‘obedience’ — one is obedient not just to formulated laws, but to the demands of reality as one encounters it” (p. 146). 

I agree with everything that Cooke has written about truth even though my immediate reaction to it is that the ideals that Cooke puts forth are very demanding to embrace. 

If we were alone, they would be impossible to achieve. I think it is extremely important to realize that we are not alone in trying to incarnate these ideals into our lives. 

In all our efforts we are accompanied by the loving, powerful presence of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord promised that the Holy Spirit would teach us truth. I believe that what is impossible becomes possible because of the presence of Infinite Love as our companion. 

In my philosophy classes at St. John’s University, when the students and I reflect on the mystery of love, I point out that every person needs to be loved in order to develop into a mature person. 

I also stress that every person is called to be a lover. I suggest that if anyone in the class has an inferiority complex, reflecting on the mystery of love may help that person to overcome that complex. Every person is called to live as a self-gift. 

All the truths about loving and being loved that great philosophers have taught us about the mystery of love are enriched and deepened by faith in the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We are not alone!

Father Lauder is a philosophy professor at St. John’s University, Jamaica. He presents two 15-minute talks from his lecture series on the Catholic Novel, 10:30 a.m. Monday through Friday on NET-TV.