In the second paragraph of Pope Benedict’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, he makes the statement: ‘Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.’
Our growth in faith is predicated on this statement. For our faith to live and thrive it needs be a relationship with a person, not a choice on an abstract idea; it needs to be an event, something that affects us relationally – not a static decision; otherwise it just amounts to a philosophical paradigm that holds no personal impact. As with our social skills we need to interact in order to grow spiritually, to move, to give our lives direction.
Today’s readings bring this statement into clarity for me.
As I was reflecting on the Gospel, and the first reading from 1st Kings I was drawn to the fact that the major character in both were widows; and I pondered about the events in their lives prior to their actions in the readings. Here are two people who loved; loved their husbands, they knew what it meant to be united with another as one flesh one body. What it meant to give totally and have someone who did the same for them – the peace and joy associated with this relationship. They knew the devastating sadness of losing that loved one – the hole left in their soul and they knew the continuing event of being alone. But these events, forged their lives, made them who they were. They continually live in the joyful event of spousal love and devastating event of death and loneliness. They knew absolute trust and, in a very real sense betrayal. Who better than they to understand the importance of true love?
And now, they gave freely all that they had to the God. The God who loved unconditionally as they did, who faced betrayal by those he loved as they felt when death took their husbands; and felt the separation and loneliness of Sheol as they feel without their husbands. By their actions, throughout their lives, they show us that true faith is with a person, who has experienced the events of our lives, who has undergone the same feelings as we feel who loves as we love, even more. This bond can only be with a person, an event of love – ideas just don’t cut it.