Thursday, October 24, 2013

We Are Saved (Become Good) When the Lord Looks For Us - Not When We Look For the Lord - "Miserando Atque Eligendo"

Begoglio: From his preface to the book of Giacomo Tantardini, Il tempo della Chiesa secondo Agostino. Seguire e rimanere in attesa. La felicità in speranza, Città Nuova, Rome 2009, 388 pp.

 “There is the point: some believe that faith and salvation come with our
effort to look for, to seek the Lord. Whereas it’s the opposite: you are saved
when the Lord looks for you, when He looks at you and you let yourself be
looked at and sought for. The Lord will look for you first. And when you find
Him, you understand that He was waiting there looking at you, He was
expecting you from beforehand.

That is salvation: He loves you beforehand. And you let yourself be
loved. Salvation is precisely this meeting where He works first. If this
meeting does not take place, we are not saved. We can talk about salvation.
Invent reassuring theological systems that turn God into a notary and His
gratuitous love into a due deed to which He is supposed to be forced by His
nature. But we never enter into the People of God. Whereas, when you look
at the Lord and you realize with gratitude that you are looking at Him
because He is looking at you, all intellectual prejudices go away, that elitism
of the spirit that is characteristic of intellectuals without talent and is
ethicism without goodness.

If the beginning of faith is the work of the Lord, Saint Augustine also
describes how you remain in this beginning. Here the keywords are those
contained in the subtitle: following and awaiting. And the figure that
represents them is John, the beloved disciple. John represents those awaiting
to be loved, and remains by grace and not effort in this expectation. In him it
is obvious that “if one is not loved first (cf. 1 Jn 4, 19) one can neither love nor
follow” (p. 171). The awaiting of the acts of the Lord is renewed in him in
every instant, the expectation of those new beginnings in which freedom
adheres to grace “through the pleasure by which it is drawn” (p. 372).
According to Augustine, there are distinctive features – Don Giacomo
points out – indications of when one is seen and embraced by the Lord.
The first sign is gratitude, the spontaneous motion of the heart that
gives thanks. Augustine shows that even the clear understanding of what it
takes to obtain salvation can become a source of pride, of the sort that he
registered among the Platonic philosophers of his time, who “have seen
where one must reach to be happy, but decided to attribute to themselves
what they saw, and become proud, have lost what they saw” (p. 27). One can
arrive at discovering that only in God is there happiness, but this knowledge
does not by itself move the heart. The heart remains sad and full of itself. It
does not dissolve in tears of gratitude (pp. 19-25). Instead, when one is
picked up in His arms by the Lord and “humbly embraces my humble God
Jesus” (p. 40), without even thinking about it, he becomes full of gratitude
and gives thanks. And in this gratitude also becomes good [my underline]. Don Giacomo
writes that “one is good not because one knows what goodness is, one is glad
not because one knows what happiness is. One is good and is happy because
one is embraced by goodness and by happiness” [my underline] (p. 330).
The other distinguishing feature is precisely the surfacing in the heart
of that happiness in hope that the subtitle of the book also mentions. For
Augustine, the joy promised by the Lord to his followers is given and lives in
spe, in hope. What does that mean? The expression in spe in the writings of
Augustine indicates that this happiness is always a grace. In our earthly
condition, this is immediately obvious to everybody: happiness on earth,
promised as pledge of heavenly happiness, does not come from us, we
cannot build it nor maintain and master it. It is not in our hands, and hence
is precarious, according to the schemes of those who believe they can build
their life as their own project. It is the happiness of the poor, who enjoy it as
a gratuitous gift. The happiness of those who live forever suspended in the
hope of the Lord, and for that very reason are untroubled. Because it is a
beautiful thing to live confident that the Lord loves us beforehand, seeks us
beforehand. The Lord of patience that comes to us hoping that we, like
Zacchaeus, climb the tree of humilitas. Saint Augustine addressed to Him
the beautiful prayer also recently revivified by Pope Benedict XVI, which can
also summarize this book: “Grant what You command, and command what
You will”. Grant us the gift of becoming as children, and then ask to be as

children, to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

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