Yesterday, while walking through the grounds of the Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, in Munster, I was struck with the thought that amidst all the beautiful trees and lovely paths there were monuments of horror: a memorial of St. Maximillian Kolbe with barbed wire on representations of concentration camp fence posts. A monument to Blessed John Paul the Great that showed him kneeling with a rosary and as if he were painfully carrying the problems of the world on his shoulders. The Stations of the Cross; the Tomb – all representations of either pain, horror, destruction, or cruelty. And yet we are to believe that this faith we hold dear, this path of Christ is the way to love, indeed is love. How? How can we absorb this and make it our mission as well? How can these representations lead us to understanding?
Last night, while listening to the first episode of Fr. Barron’s New Evangelization series, I caught a phrase he used in a discussion with an auxiliary bishop of Sydney Australia. He was discussing what our mission, as followers of Christ is, and they were talking about the banal vision that many have about Christ and his mission – specifically what is love.
Father Barron said ‘love is not a feeling or a sentiment, a private subjective conviction. Love is willing the good of the other, as other.’ And his discussion pointed out why dogma, why what we believe is so important to how we live. And his discussion, indeed dogma, is reinforced by the statues and memorials we place in our houses of worship and other sacred sites, even our homes. We are reminded that when we ‘will good of the other, as other’ we are stepping outside of ourselves and offering, unconditionally, to someone else what Christ offered to us. If we allow ourselves to turn away from these beliefs, these dogmas, the truth our actions become in fact what Fr. Barron said love wasn’t: ‘a feeling or a sentiment, a private subjective conviction’ and our actions become first and foremost about me.
Our mission in life is to radiate the joy of faith; faith in a God that loves purely, and by doing so offered everything he had to help us, for no other reason than it would be for our good. When we go about the world, we need to bring the faith to those we meet, the full faith, not a warm, fuzzy, happy faith without the challenges of pain and suffering. We bring the actions of Christ, and we celebrate those actions by imitating them, making them our own actions. We don’t echo modern thoughts that as long as you view yourself as loving you are loving person. Because love, true and perfect love has a face, it has a logic, it is the logos, it is God.
The monuments that we hold dear show horror, pain, cruelty to those who are still within themselves. If we allow God to enter our hearts then a vista opens up before us, a vista of clarity, opened with the key of dogma; that brings us the true meaning of these monuments, a vista of love; not the love of sentiment, but of will – the will of God.