May 17, 2016

Amoris laetitia: Faith

Committing oneself exclusively and definitively to another person always involves a risk and a bold gamble. (132)
Finding this line in Amoris laetitia reminded me a lot of the marriage preparation and pastoral care I used to do when I was assigned to a parish.

Starting out in the parish ministry, I struggled a little to know how to preach faith to the folks who came for marriage preparation and to celebrate their weddings, most of whom--with some brightly shining exceptions--were not practicing the faith.

After some time, experience, and reflection, I arrived at the point that worked for me in preaching and pastoral care: the very thing that they were doing, exchanging the consent of marriage, was a great act of faith.

For what does it mean for two people to give themselves to each other in an unconditional and indissoluble way? It is the 'bold gamble', as the Pope puts it, that what they have found in each other is stronger than whatever an unknown future can bring. It is the proclamation that something found is greater than something that can't even be known at the time. To me that's faith. And it's a worthy act of faith because it is an act of faith in God.

Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)

The experience of love and the act of loving, that is, willing the good of another as other, is one of the ways we are made to experience the divine. "He who loves is born of God and knows God." In fact, love is a touching, a participation in the divine nature. This is why it is the greatest thing available to our created nature, and this is why it makes our created nature creative.

This is why the experience of love seems to draw from us an unconditional 'forever' kind of commitment; it is our way of imitating and approximating, in our limited condition, the eternity of the divine which has come to touch us and dwell in us as love. It's why two teenagers, who have no idea of the length of life and still less of eternity, want to say 'together forever.' The experience itself draws from us, and happily so, a proclamation that approximates and imitates the eternity of God.

It is in this sense that the consent of the candidates for marriage becomes sacramental, as a 'visible sign of an invisible grace', because it becomes the visible sign of a presence of God that the Holy Spirit has worked between them. That the very experience of this grace elicits a consent to a permanent and indissoluble bond is a sign of the authenticity of the grace that bears within it the stamp of God's own eternity.

The same sort of theology goes, mutatis mutandis, for the exclusive relationship with God celebrated in religious profession.

For the shticky, practical version of all this, see this old post.

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