A Mission Embodied Within Human Limits

The next section of Pope Francis' exhortation speaks of the human weakness that each of us brings to the task of evangelization. We are hampered in our efforts to communicate the richness of God's love by a number of factors that can all be lumped under the notion of human weakness.

The first of these weaknesses is that of language. Our human language is simply not broad enough to encompass God's immensity. We speak, for instance, of God's omnipotence. Some wag will immediately ask if God can create a square circle and insist that this proves that God is not all-powerful. The problem is not with God's power. The problem lies in our language. Another example comes to the fore when we speak of God as being three persons in one God. Because our definition of "person" usually invites us to consider an individual, we trip ourselves up when trying to adequately delineate how three can be one. One of my teachers reminded us: "Don't canonize the language." Always be aware that human language is not limitless. God, on the other hand, is.

Another weakness is the fact that our understanding and knowledge is limited. Another teacher reminded me that the more we know, the more we find new questions to ask. We will never reach the end of our quest for knowledge. Plumbing the depths of God's being is outside the scope of our human ability to know.

We are also plagued by our own human instincts. For instance, most people do not seek to make themselves less important. Most people do not willingly choose to suffer for someone else. Most people do not seek to impoverish themselves for the sake of others. Yet, this is exactly what God has done by becoming one of us. Will we ever understand God's motivation in these actions? We know that God loves us. Will we ever understand the limitless nature of that love? As in all rhetorical questions, the answer is obvious.

In speaking of evangelization, Pope Francis asks us to speak of the mystery of God's love and mercy rather than focusing our attention on moral imperatives. In fact, it is our very weakness that fosters this approach. We find it so difficult to contain God in our language, to understand God's nature, to love as God loves. So we tend to focus our attention on those things that we do know, the things that we can understand. It is far easier to speak of the black and white issues of morality than it is to speak of and practice the love, mercy and compassion that God visits upon us.

No one likes being "at sea." We all seek certitude. We hate making mistakes. We would rather not change that which has become comfortable. However, those who choose to be evangelists must willingly swim out into the ocean that is God without the usual life preservers. The Gospel is meant to challenge the comfortable and comfort the uncomfortable.

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

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