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God Is Love (Deus Caritas Est) (Benedict XVI) Paperback – February 10, 2006
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"Most Catholics who read 'God Is Love' will find the text challenging, provocative and insightful, offering reflections on topics they might not expect to find in an encyclical, the highest form of papal teaching." (John Thavis CNS 20060127) --John Thavis Catholic News Services
About the Author
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, was born at Marktl am Inn, Diocese of Passau (Germany) on 16 April 1927 (Holy Saturday) and was baptised on the same day. He received his priestly ordination on 29 June 1951 and from 1962 to 1965 he made a notable contribution to Vatican II as an "expert"; being present at the Council as theological advisor of Cardinal Joseph Frings, Archbishop of Cologne. He was later the archbishop of Munich and Freising and on 25 November 1981 John Paul II named him Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and of the International Theological Commission. On 19 April 2005 he was elected to be the leader of the Roman Catholic Church and took the name Pope Benedict XVI.
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Here, in this concise and deep work, Pope Benedict XVI elaborates that truly, cosmically, God is love. He states that Christian charitable activity, "contribute to a better world only by personally doing good now, with full commitment and wherever we have the opportunity, independently of partisan strategies and programs" (pg 81). Enjoy!
Deus Caritas Est is broken into two parts: The unity of Love in Creation and Salvation History; and Caritas, the practice of Love by the Church as a "Community of Love." This letter includes detailed explanations of Benedict's teaching points and would require a long summary. I will focus on several main points that are important to me.
In the Introduction Benedict refers to Scripture and teaches that we "come to believe" in the love of God and indicates that love is an encounter that animates and guides our lives. He proclaims the words of Jesus that the commandments are "united" into a single concept - love. God loves us and we respond by loving Him and our neighbors.
The Pope discusses Eros, the love between a man and a woman. He notes that some Christians want to avoid discussing Eros. He also notes that some Christian leaders forget that we were created as human beings. Christian Eros can be very positive and bring us closer to God. This occurs when Eros, worldly love, joins with agape, love "grounded and shaped by faith". By accepting our humanity we accept God's creation. That love, however, must not be self-centered, as Eros often is at the beginning of sexual attraction. With agape, love seeks the "good of the beloved" and is ready to sacrifice self for other. When fully formed love receives as well as gives, Eros-agape leads to a loving relationship.
The letter also addresses forgiveness. God's agape love is "completely gratuitous" and as such God's love forgives. Benedict refers to Hosea 11 and claims that God's love overcomes God's justice. " I will not give vent to my blazing anger, I will not destroy Ephraim again; For I am God and not man, the Holy One present among you; I will not let the flames consume you."
The Pope suggests that there is an "unbreakable" bond between love of God and love of neighbor. If I "close my eyes" to neighbors, I "blind" myself to God. If I concentrate upon my religious duties and ignore others, I become arid and eventually loveless.
Benedict reminds us that the Church has three responsibilities: to proclaim the word of God, to celebrate the sacraments, and to exercise the ministry of charity. These three are inseparable. For the Church, charity must be the very essence of its activities. The
Church of today, with advances in communication and travel, must address the needs of all people everywhere. Our distinctiveness as a Church equals our charitable activities.
This encyclical has some deep insights. I plan to re-read it with much meditation and prayer. I highly recommend this encyclical.