Thursday, October 4, 2012

Having a Parent-Child Relationship with God

Below we discuss Having a Spousal Relationship with Christ, borrowing heavily from Blessed Pope John Paul II's theology of the body. All of us -- men and women, those with a vocation to human married life, both those who have already married and those single people who have not yet married, those with a vocation to the religious life, and even those persons with a same sex attraction -- are called to have a spousal-type of love and relationship with the Lord, especially in the eschatological destiny of the faithful.

But what are some of the other relationships that we can have or should have with the Lord?

In addition to our having a personal spousal relationship with the Lord, individually and in communion with the whole Church as the Bride, since the other faithful have a spousal relationship with Him, we are also often described as wedding guests, where we rejoice at the nuptial union of the Lamb and His Bride.

One of the most obvious forms of relationship, of course, is the parent-child relationship, the relationship that Jesus invites us to have with God by calling Him "Father." Indeed, in the original Aramaic, Jesus uses the more affectionate and intimate word used by children of "Abba". Related to this very intimate paternal relationship is the more formal relationship of Creator and creature, the Omnipotent and the limited, dependent, and lowly. We are His children, His creation.

However, Jesus is the Son of God. So, if He is the Son and we are also children of God, then that would indicate a fraternal relationship with the Lord, one of brother-brother and brother-sister. Beyond the intimacy of a familial relationship, there is also the close relationship of friends, with Jesus famously teaching that there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for a friend. (Jn 15:13-15)

Then there are the other relationships described in scripture, such as master-servant, with we faithful being workers in the vineyard of the Lord. When He was not called "master," by the Apostles and other disciples, Jesus was often called "Rabbi," demonstrating a teacher-student relationship. At times, Jesus goes beyond mere teaching and instead He takes on the character of teaching with authority, that is, acting as lawgiver. This would also be related to the relationship of Judge and accused, whereby we will stand before Jesus in judgment of our lives, as well as Jesus being Christ the King, with us as His faithful subjects.

One of the obligations of a good sovereign king, of course, is the protection of the kingdom and the people, so we see also the relationship of Good Shepherd and His sheep. If we stray from the flock and become lost, then Jesus the Shepherd will come and find us. Related to His taking care of the sheep is the physician-patient relationship, whereby Jesus not only performed many medical healings during His ministry, but He seeks to heal us as well from our injuries and diseases of sin and suffering. As the Bread of Life and the Eternal Living Water (Jn 6:35 and 4:10-14), he sustains us who are hungry and thirsty.

So which of these is the relationship that we ought to have with Jesus? The right answer is all of them. Our relationship with Jesus Christ ought to encompass all good and right kinds of relationship. We can see this illustrated in our postures at Mass. At times, we stand as a sign of respect in our prayers. During the period of instruction, when listening to the scriptures and the homily, we sit (standing, of course, in respect for the Gospel). While Jesus is always present in Spirit, when He enters the Mass in the Blessed Sacrament, His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, it is right and proper that we should kneel. Each of these postures indicate the various types of relationship with Him, some of them rather close, some of them maintaining a respectful distance.

However, the Mass culminates with what kind of posture? Our receiving His Body into our own. A more intimate encounter you cannot describe, to have one person literally inside another. This is the kind of intimate touching that you see in only two relationships -- the spousal and the maternal.

Which brings us to the one other relationship that I would like to focus on in particular, and that is the parental-child relationship. By this I am not referring to the Father-children of God relationship, but the relationship that Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, has with the Lord.

If you were to picture Jesus appearing before you right now, what would He look like? Most people who answer that question say that He would be rather muscular, with dark hair and a beard, some might say He looks suspiciously like Jim Caviezel. But most everyone always describes a fully-grown adult Jesus. Throughout the year, when we think of Christ, we invariably think of Him during His ministry, Passion, Resurrection, or reigning up there in heaven. A couple of times during Advent and Christmastime, we speak of "baby Jesus," but there is often still a disconnect -- we think that the "real" Jesus is the adult whose words we know.

But there is great value in reflecting upon Jesus the baby. Just as there is great value in reflecting upon Jesus as the God/Man, fully God, yet fully a man, there is also great value in reflecting upon Jesus as the God/Baby, fully God, yet fully a tiny, defenseless, needy baby.

And there is value in a pregnant woman looking down to see the baby in her own womb, or a man looking upon the womb of his wife, putting themselves in the places of Mary and Joseph, embracing the not-yet-born Jesus with their hands. And, later, holding the newborn Jesus in their loving arms.

Especially for the New Evangelization, this is the Jesus we should reflect upon, in addition to reflecting upon the usual waiting for the (adult) bridegroom/master/king to arrive. As all-powerful as the Creator of the Universe is, Jesus the God/Baby teaches us that it is part of His plan to need our help, that He is relying on us to help Him, to feed Him, to clothe Him, to protect Him, to love Him. This is implicit in the whole idea of the Church - whose mission is to help Him - but the Baby Jesus places it in stark, tangible form. The Almighty makes Himself a baby so that we might welcome Him and love Him, and thereby love others.

Likewise, it is appropriate and helpful to consider the Baby Jesus in the context of our new life in the Faith by virtue of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation, by which we receive the many graces we will need to engage in this work of evangelization. Whereas Baptism is about personal redemption and initiation into the Church, Confirmation is about sanctification and joining in the Church's mission of being a witness for Christ, that is, loving Him and helping Him. Having received the fullness of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, we are now better prepared to take the precious baby into our arms, to love and nurture Him and, like the shepherds and magi who will appear later, to make a gift to Him of ourselves.

And so, where do we see Christ at this moment? Yes, He is the King, but He is also the Baby. Right now, He is the baby in the womb, the God who is literally drawing on the human flesh and life of Mary for His own (human) survival. The baby who needs her, the baby who needs us.

As with the spousal relationship, which we are invited to now, but looks forward to our eschatological destiny in the New Jerusalem, we ought to focus our attention in the New Evangelization on a child-parent relationship, where we become like Mary and Joseph, allowing ourselves to be filled with the Holy Spirit so as to become pregnant with Jesus in the wombs of our hearts, and to thereafter carry Him in our arms wherever we go, so that others might come to know Him when we visit them, as so that they might hear Him speak to them, as Elizabeth and John the Baptist "heard" Jesus "speaking" from the womb of Mary at the Visitation.

God Comes to Us as a Baby in Need of Our Help
Homily of Pope Benedict XVI
Midnight Mass, Christmas 2006
“Be not afraid, for behold, I proclaim to you glad tidings of great joy that will be for all the people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Lk 2:10-11)

Nothing miraculous, nothing extraordinary, nothing magnificent is given to the shepherds as a sign. All they will see is a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, one who, like all children, needs a mother’s care; a child born in a stable, who therefore lies not in a cradle but in a manger. God’s sign is the baby in need of help and in poverty. . . .

God’s sign is simplicity. God’s sign is the baby. God’s sign is that He makes Himself small for us. This is how He reigns. He does not come with power and outward splendor. He comes as a baby, defenseless and in need of our help. He does not want to overwhelm us with His strength. He takes away our fear of His greatness. He asks for our love: so He makes Himself a child. He wants nothing other from us than our love, through which we spontaneously learn to enter into His feelings, His thoughts and His will – we learn to live with Him and to practice with Him that humility of renunciation that belongs to the very essence of love. God made Himself small so that we could understand Him, welcome Him, and love Him. . . .

"God made His Word short, He abbreviated it" (Is 10:23; Rom 9:28). The Fathers of the early Church interpreted this in two ways. The Son Himself is the Word, the Logos; the eternal Word became small – small enough to fit into a manger. He became a child, so that the Word could be grasped by us. In this way God teaches us to love the little ones. In this way He teaches us to love the weak. . . .

And so we come to the second meaning . . . The Word which God speaks to us in Sacred Scripture had become long in the course of the centuries. It became long and complex, not just for the simple and unlettered, but even more so for those versed in Sacred Scripture . . . Jesus "abbreviated" the Word – He showed us once more its deeper simplicity and unity. Everything taught by the Law and the Prophets is summed up, He says, in the command: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind… You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Mt 22:37-40). This is everything – the whole faith is contained in this one act of love which embraces God and humanity. . .

God is no longer distant. He is no longer unknown. He is no longer beyond the reach of our heart. He has become a child for us, and in so doing He has dispelled all doubt. He has become our neighbor, restoring in this way the image of man, whom we often find so hard to love. For us, God has become a gift. He has given Himself. He has entered time for us. He who is the Eternal One, above time, He has assumed our time and raised it to himself on high. . . .

And so, finally, we find yet a third meaning in the saying that the Word became "brief" and "small". . . . Man, in order to live, needs bread, the fruit of the earth and of his labor. But he does not live by bread alone. He needs nourishment for his soul: he needs meaning that can fill his life. Thus, for the Fathers, the manger of the animals became the symbol of the altar, on which lies the Bread which is Christ Himself: the true food for our hearts. Once again we see how He became small: in the humble appearance of the host, in a small piece of bread, He gives us Himself.

1 comment:

Prairie Lover said...

some might say He looks suspiciously like Jim Caviezel

Well, yeahhhh...