Thoughts on the First Readings -Joe Frankenfield
First Sunday of Lent
Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7
In John’s first letter he writes “God is love.” That deserves a lot of thought. Though we hear it in our hymns, prayers and religious conversations, it doesn’t always sink in. John goes on, lest we miss his point, that when we participate in loving, we participate in God. That too merits a pause.
John isn’t saying that God’s nice and loves us like a kind uncle or a good friend. He’s saying that God is love.
Every theologian and mystic in our Tradition has made the point that God isn’t just a being among beings. We can’t lump Aunt Tilley, Black holes and green Jell-O with God and say that they’re all beings that exist.
Thomas Aquinas, Catholicism’s touchstone philosopher, taught that God doesn’t exist like anything else exists. Karl Rahner, the greatest theologian of our own times, taught that God is the Ground of being: the source and foundation of all that is.
Before any of us decide it would be interesting to set aside a couple minutes to understand just how God does exist, I’ll note that both Thomas and Rahner, as well as every other Catholic thinker, has said that we’re simply incapable of imagining God’s being because we’ve never experienced anything like God. This would be a good point to practice our humility. Back to John’s letter.
Living with and watching Jesus led his followers to realize that at the heart of everything, at the core of our being and the core of every being is loving. Their Jewish faith was that God creates the sun, stars and people. As disciples of Jesus, they discovered that the life-giving heart of everything was love: not chance; not uncaring power; not a frivolous, self-centered super-being; not a divine ego fashioning subjects to bow and pander to him but love.
Jesus’ disciples learned something else. Love isn’t a warm feeling shared over a glass of wine. It’s a relationship where one values his bond to another so much that he gives himself for the other’s welfare. They discovered this not in Jesus’ words but in his decision to accept death on a cross rather than walk away from them. In that decision they sensed the loving at the heart of the universe; it changed their lives.
Praying over our understanding of God is time well spent.