Catechizing the World by Christ’s Love

What is the greatest evangelistic tool we have at our disposal as the Church? Is it clever words or lofty arguments? Is it a “do this and this will happen” formula?Follow_Me pilgrim icon

In none of these does the essence of the power of the Gospel reside. In this and this alone — a scandalously particular love that is not according to the definitions the world, but the love of God the Father in God the Son as displayed and enabled by God the Holy Spirit through the Church and her members — you and me. The concrete, enduring, relational love of Christ Himself through you and me is the best apology for the Gospel. It is into this living narrative of salvation, into which we have been baptized and participate, we invite others for the sake of their salvation and our own. Those who seek to “see Jesus” deserve the opportunity to do just that!! The Holy Tradition was created and is maintained in all its dynamism for this main work — to reunite God and mankind and cause that union to mature and be consummately manifest in the everyday life of people like you and me. For this purpose God seeks to make His personal appeal of concrete love through us.

Hear what St. Augustine says:

But what greater reason exists then of our Lord’s coming, than that God might shew in us His Love, commending it mightily, in that whilst we were yet enemies Christ died for us? And that for this cause, seeing that love is the end of the commandment and the fulfilling of the Law,that we also may love one another, and in like manner as He laid down His life for us, so we also may lay down our life for the brethren; and in respect of God Himself, since He first loved us, and spared not His own only Son, but gave Him up for us all, that, even if to love Him were irksome, yet that, now at least, it may not be irksome to return His love. For there is no greater invitation to love, than loving first … [T]he soul which was before torpid, is aroused as soon as it hath perceived itself to be the object of love, and that which was already warm, is the more enkindled as it hath learnt that its love is returned, it is clear that there exists no greater cause either for the beginning or for the increase of love, than when he who as yet loves not, perceives that he is beloved, or he who loves before, either hopes that he may be, or is already assured that he is, loved in return: and if this is the case even in shameful loves, how much more in friendship? For what else do we guard against in that which causes discontent in friendship, but this, that our friend may not judge that we either do not love him at all, or love him less than he loves us? …

If therefore for this cause especially Christ came, that man might understand how greatly he is beloved of God; and to this end might understand it, that he might grow fervent in the love of Him, by Whom he was first loved, and might love his neighbour, at His bidding and His shewing, Who was made man’s neighbour, in that He loved him when not his neighbour, but far off sojourning; and if all divine Scripture which was written before, was written to proclaim beforehand the coming of the Lord; and whatever afterwards was committed to writing, and confirmed by divine authority, telleth of Christ, and admonisheth of love: it is clear that on these two commandments, of the love of God, and of our neighbour, hang not only the whole Law and the Prophets, which as yet, when our Lord thus spake, formed the whole of Holy Scripture, but also whatsoever portions of the divine volume have since been written for our health, and committed to our remembrance.

Wherefore in the Old Testament there is a veiling of the New, in the New Testament there is an unveiling of the Old. According to that veiling carnal men understanding after a carnal manner, both then and now, have been bowed down by a penal yoke of fear. But according to this revelation spiritual men, both then as many as knocking piously had even hidden things opened to them, and now as many as seek not proudly, lest even open things be closed to them, understanding after a spiritual manner, have been made free by that love with which they have been gifted. Wherefore seeing nothing is more opposed to love than envying, and that the mother of envying is pride, that same our Lord Jesus Christ, God-Man, is both a token of the divine love towards us, and an example of the divine humility among us, that thus our great swelling might be healed by a more powerful remedy counteracting it. Great misery indeed is it, proud mau; but greater commiseration, God humbled! This love therefore being taken by you as your proposed end, to which to refer all things which you say, whatever you narrate, do you so narrate it, as that he whom you are addressing may by hearing believe, by believing hope, by hoping love.
St. Augustine, The Catechizing of the Unlearned, 7,8

Hear also the witness of St. John:

John 1.35-51
[35] The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples;
[36] and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”
[37] The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.
[38] Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?”
[39] He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.
[40] One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.
[41] He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ).
[42] He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
[43] The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And he found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”
[44] Now Philip was from Beth-sa’ida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
[45] Philip found Nathan’a-el, and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
[46] Nathan’a-el said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
[47] Jesus saw Nathan’a-el coming to him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!”
[48] Nathan’a-el said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
[49] Nathan’a-el answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
[50] Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.”
[51] And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.”

The height, depth, length and width of the kind of love which is Christ Jesus — the only life-giving love there is — measurable only by the standard of what occurs when the relationship the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share is Incarnate in the context of human circumstance and where that love takes and requires of those who offer it. That is perceived as risky for us who are encountered by it inside our neat self-created universes. That requires trust. It requires us to venture into the regions of love we have only seen from afar and never dared to set foot. We can no longer maintain our status as the ones “in charge of the result” even though we are confident regarding the result — the very life of Christ Jesus will indwell those who receive this love and they will live the Christ-life. That has never failed to be the perfect result, in God’s timing, because He Who loves is the victorious One.


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