Words to enrich God’s message

By | December 7, 2011

Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988) was a Swiss Catholic theologian whose eloquent writing focused on the glory and beauty of God. In his book “Heart of the World,” von Balthasar offers us some points of meditation that might enrich our understanding of God’s word for this third Sunday of Advent.

“For in this do resurrection and life consist: in further proclaiming the good news, in carrying on the flame, in being a useful instrument in my hand that I may build up my kingdom in men’s hearts, in letting my heart go on beating in yours” (160). Jesus wants us to put on his mind and heart and by so doing, we carry his light into the world.

John the Baptist did exactly that. He came to testify to God’s light, love and life. He would be a voice challenging people to repentance. He would baptize with water and tell the people to watch for the coming of God’s anointed. John’s heart beat with the grace of divine love. His whole ministry was to point to Jesus the Messiah. Once Christ came, his work was done and he would experience through his martyrdom the fullness of the risen life.

“We rush into the light and are drawn on in ecstasy; but the fire which no one may approach holds us in its spell. We plunge into the flames, are burnt through and through, but the flame does not kill; it transforms us into light and burns on in us as love” (32-33). This is a perfect description of St. Paul. Paul experienced Christ as the light of the world. This prophet to the Gentiles did not quench the Holy Spirit but plunged into his call to be an agent of reconciliation. Thus his heart was filled with joy; he prayed always; he pleaded with his communities to be prepared for the coming of Jesus.

Paul experienced God as fire but one that did not consume but transformed. He experienced the fidelity of God and understood clearly that God would complete the work that began on the road to Damascus. Paul knew the ecstasy of divine love and shouted it to the world.

One last thought from von Balthasar. “The cross means solidarity” (13). The Christmas mystery leads to the cross and the cross means our salvation. Christmas is all about solidarity, our oneness with God and our oneness with one another.

Questions for Reflection

1. What is the connection between Christmas and the cross?

2. How does the fire of God’s love burn in your heart?

3. How do the Scriptures shape and inform the quotes from Hans Urs von Balthasar?

Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.

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