By Dr. David Franks, Chairman of the Board of Massachusetts Citizens for Life
How does the world appear when love departs? The inner illumination behind the stained-glass of earth, sky, and history goes drab like a candle at noon.
But when one is loved and when one loves, the colors of the world blazon an irresistible goodness, despite one’s increased sensitivity to the tears in all things.
If we are to have the energy to chisel justice as living form from out the recalcitrance of time and of hardened hearts, we must love and be loved. If we are to carry on the pro-life mission, we must see how the Heart of the world bleeds for each of us and for all of us.
For the next session of Mass. Citizens for Life’s Pro-Life Social Doctrine Certificate Program, we are reading the Book of Revelation and Pope Benedict’s Deus caritas est/God is Love. (Everyone is welcome to come tomorrow: masscitizensforlife.org/certificate.)
In this first of his three encyclicals (all of which I maintain should be understood as social-doctrine encyclicals), Pope Benedict insists on love as the center of gravity of social justice and of the Kingdom.
He begins by citing the Johannine affirmation: "We have come to believe in God’s love" (1 John 4:16). He goes on to explore eros, agape, charity/solidarity within this fundamental discovery. His goal is "to call forth in the world renewed energy and commitment in the human response to God’s love."
The Pierced Heart of Jesus provides the juncture in the encyclical between reflections on personal love and the social-justice ramifications of love. Reality, epitomized and displayed on the Cross, is tri-Personal: being is love. Therefore, to the analogy of being corresponds an analogy of love, in which there can be no separation between romance and solidarity. If we love, we love personally and universally; intensively and extensively.
The second part of the encyclical begins:
"'If you see charity, you see the Trinity,’ wrote Saint Augustine. In the foregoing reflections, we have been able to focus our attention on the Pierced One (cf. John 19:37; Zechariah 12:10), recognizing the plan of the Father Who, moved by love (cf. John 3:16), sent His only-begotten Son into the world to redeem man. By dying on the Cross—as Saint John tells us—Jesus 'gave up His Spirit’ (John 19:30), anticipating the gift of the Holy Spirit that He would make after His Resurrection (cf. John 20:22). This was to fulfill the promise of 'rivers of living water’ that would flow out of the hearts of believers, through the outpouring of the Spirit (cf. John 7:38-39). The Spirit, in fact, is that interior power which harmonizes their hearts with Christ’s heart and moves them to love their brethren as Christ loved them, when He bent down to wash the feet of the disciples (cf. John 13:1-13) and above all when He gave His life for us (cf. John 13:1, 15:13)."
This Johannine emphasis sums up Scripture, and therefore revelation, as such: the last book of the Bible, the Apocalypse, as the summation of revelation, unveils reality as a tri-Personal love that bears all things and that, in doing so, conquers all that is inimical to life:
”Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the City…" (Revelation 22:1).
The Trinity (in Johannine fashion, the Spirit is the river of living water) gives life to the ultimate communion, the Kingdom in full, the fully realized City—the New Jerusalem.
Love makes possible the true Republic, the Republic on the glassy sea, beyond all faction and self-serving and secularized power, a Kingdom of priests glorifying primal love as the ruling truth.
This is the Kingdom of true love, of love that endures to the end, of first love (see Revelation 2:4).
If we are to persevere for the sake of the most powerless human lives, to strive to secure here and now (over and over again) an arrangement of our communal life congruent with the Kingdom of love, we must see the love for which suffering is in fact the royal highway: "Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, every one who pierced Him…" (Revelation 1:7).
We remember the dead (especially this month); we remember how we have collaborated in the throttling of life in others; we rejoice like Christian Virgils that, though there are tears in all things (sunt lacrimae rerum), Love conquers all (omnia vincit amor).