instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, March 27, 2006

Discussion questions for Deus Caritas Est, nn. 9-18

These are the questions I armed myself with to discuss the second part of the first part of Deus Caritas Est at my parish.
1. "The one God in whom Israel believes, on the other hand, loves with a personal love. His love, moreover, is an elective love: among all the nations he chooses Israel and loves her -- but he does so precisely with a view to healing the whole human race. God loves, and his love may certainly be called eros, yet it is also totally agape." [9]
• Can we make sense of calling God's love eros?

2. "We have seen that God's eros for man is also totally agape. This is not only because it is bestowed in a completely gratuitous manner, without any previous merit, but also because it is love which forgives." [10]
• Does a love bestowed without any previous merit and which forgives describe how we love? Is it even possible for us?

3. "God's passionate love for his people -- for humanity -- is at the same time a forgiving love. It is so great that it turns God against himself, his love against his justice." [10]
• Can we make sense of a love "so great that it turns God against himself"?

4. "First, eros is somehow rooted in man's very nature; Adam is a seeker, who 'abandons his mother and father' in order to find woman; only together do the two represent complete humanity and become 'one flesh.' The second aspect is equally important. From the standpoint of creation, eros directs man towards marriage, to a bond which is unique and definitive; thus, and only thus, dofulfillfulfil its deepest purpose. Corresponding to the image of a monotheistic God is monogamous marriage. Marriage based on exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa. God's way of loving becomes the measure of human love." [11]
• Any thoughts on how this encyclical can be used to prepare for or support Christian marriages?

5. "The real novelty of the New Testament lies not so much in new ideas as in the figure of Christ himself, who gives flesh and blood to those concepts -- an unprecedented realism." [12]
• Is there real novelty in the ideas of the New Testament? Which ones?

6. "By contemplating the pierced side of Christ (cf. 19:37), we can understand the starting-point of this Encyclical Letter: 'God is love' (1 Jn 4:8). It is there that this truth can be contemplated. It is from there that our definition of love must begin. In this contemplation the Christian discovers the path along which his life and love must move." [12]
• How can we bring this contemplation of the pierced side of Christ into our definition of love?

7. "[T]his sacramental 'mysticism' is social in character, for in sacramental communion I become one with the Lord, like all the other communicants.... Communion draws me out of myself towards him, and thus also towards unity with all Christians." [14]
• Do we find that Communion draws us out of ourselves toward unity with all Christians?

8. "Faith, worship and ethos are interwoven as a single reality which takes shape in our encounter with God's agape. Here the usual contraposition between worship and ethics simply falls apart.... A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented." [14]
• "Does my Communion pass over into the concrete practice of love?": Is this a question we use when examining our consciences?

9. "The Church has the duty to interpret ever anew this relationship between near and far with regard to the actual daily life of her members." [15]
• How do we interpret the relationship between near and far with regard to our actual daily life?

10. "'If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen' (1 Jn 4:20)... Saint John's words should ... be interpreted to mean that love of neighbor is a path that leads to the encounter with God, and that closing our eyes to our neighbor also blinds us to God." [16]
• Can we function day to day without closing our eyes to our neighbor?

11. "He has loved us first and he continues to do so; we too, then, can respond with love. God does not demand of us a feeling which we ourselves are incapable of producing. He loves us, he makes us see and experience his love, and since he has 'loved us first', love can also blossom as a response within us." [17]
• Whom do we love first?

12. "Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave." [18]
• What can we do for those who don't know they crave a look of love?