Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.

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The Gospel account of our Lord’s birth unfolds with sublime simplicity. It begins with the census decree from Caesar Augustus. Then the journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the lack of room at the Inn, the holy couple taking refuge in a cave on the outskirts of town, the climatic moment of the birth of the savior of the world, the infant wrapped in swaddling bands and lying in a manger, the angelic voices calling the shepherds to come and worship, and the Wise Men following a star.

Jesus was divine, the Son of God. He was also human, the son of Mary. He spoke with divine authority but he spoke in human language. He spoke in the simple language of ordinary people of his day about the things they were most familiar with: the birds of the air, the lilies of the field, the sower and the seed, the vine and the branches. When he wanted to tell his apostles how important they were he said that they were the “light of the world” and the “salt of the earth.” And when he wanted to tell us of God’s love for us he used the heart, the human symbol of love. He told us that we should learn of him that he was meek and humble of heart and we would find rest for our souls.

Christianity is sublimely simple. It has to be. It has to be simple first of all because it is for everyone. God wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” (Matt. 28:19) There are millions of adults in this country who are functionally illiterate. There are even greater millions of illiterates in the third world countries. Christianity is not for them? Didn’t Jesus die for them also?

Christianity has to be simple also because it is a way of life. It is the way to live throughout the whole of life. It is not some esoteric truth that the elite will discover after many years of prayer and study. So that at the end of your life you say, “Eureka, I found it” and die in peace. Christianity is not an intellectual pursuit. It is a pursuit of love. Christianity is not anti-intellectual. It is truly intellectual. It realizes the limitations of the intellect and transcends it. Knowledge precedes love. We cannot love what we do not know. But it is in love that we get mystical knowledge. In love we really get to know the person.

Christianity is as simple as one, two, three, four, five. One: the whole of Christianity can be expressed in one word: JESUS. Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life.” Jesus is the medium and the message. In Jesus, the medium is the message. Jesus is the greatest expression of the love of God and the greatest expression of the human response to that love. The whole content of Christianity has been extracted from the person and life of Jesus. To be a Christian is to incarnate these abstractions in our own person so we become another Jesus. Two: The whole life of Jesus can be expressed in two words: “YES, FATHER”. Jesus came to do the will of his Father. He was obedient to death, death on a cross. The will of the Father was that he become one of us to redeem us and give us an example of what it means to be authentically human. He was like unto us in all things but sin. He did the will of his Father so perfectly that at the end of his life he could say, “It is finished.” Three: The message of Jesus can be expressed in three words: GOD IS LOVE. The essence of the Trinity is a personal relationship of love between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is the only love there was at the beginning, the only love there is now and the only love there will ever be. We are not creators; we are only receivers and transmitters of the love of God. And we can only transmit as much as we receive. Four: What this means for me can be expressed in four words: GOD LOVES ME UNCONDITIONALLY. Psychologically this is the first and the most important truth for me. It is the first step on the road to salvation and the secret of great sanctity. And it is also the truth that nobody really believes! The great turning point in life comes when I realize and fully accept the fact that God loves me unconditionally with a love I cannot earn or ever be worthy of, not for my possessions or for my accomplishments, but for myself, for myself not as I could be or should be but as I really am with all of the physical warts, psychological quirks and spiritual infidelities. Five: My response to God can be expressed in five words: LOVE GOD, SELF AND NEIGHBOR. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these to commandments.” (Matt. 22: 37-40) Love is the fulfillment of the law. St. Augustine said, “Love and do what you will.” He knew if we loved we would do what is right and just. Justice is the foundation of love. Love begins when we have fulfilled the demands of justice. We simply let the love of God which is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit permeate our being and radiate from, filter through and overflow to others.

Theology is defined as faith seeking understanding. Christianity is not an intellectual pursuit, it is a pursuit of the heart, a pursuit of love. Theology should be defined as love seeking fulfillment. Prayer is simply the recognition and expression of our relationship of love with God. Our relationship of love with God is the first relationship we have, it will also be the last relationship we have and it should always be the most important relationship we have. Therefore, love is the greatest prayer. We can pray always simply by being-in-love with God. You want to be holy? To be holy is to be God-like. God is love. So to be holy is simply to love. All the rest is commentary.




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