During the CANA International Meeting, held in Rome in parallel with the World Meeting of Families (June 22-26, 2022), Bishop MORANDI* presented to the CANA leaders the most innovative document of the Second Vatican Council: the Constitution Dei Verbum, the Word of God, promulgated on November 18, 1965 by Pope Paul VI. He commented on paragraph 2 on the nature of Divine Revelation and developed the theme of “listening” which, starting from our relationship with God, leads us towards others. He invites us to marvel and concludes with Amoris Laetitia – The Joy of Loving. Here is a summary of his talk based on notes taken by Nicole NOWICKI.
“2. In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (see Eph. 1:9) by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature (see Eph. 2:18; 2 Peter 1:4). Through this revelation, therefore, the invisible God (see Col. 1;15, 1 Tim. 1:17) out of the abundance of His love speaks to men as friends (see Ex. 33:11; John 15:14-15) and lives among them (see Bar. 3:38), so that He may invite and take them into fellowship with Himself. This plan of revelation is realized by deeds and words having an inner unity: the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation manifest and confirm the teaching and realities signified by the words, while the words proclaim the deeds and clarify the mystery contained in them. By this revelation then, the deepest truth about God and the salvation of man shines out for our sake in Christ, who is both the mediator and the fullness of all revelation.”
Dei Verbum, paragraph 2.
The invisible God addresses men as friends
The fathers of the Council wanted to emphasize the goodness and mercy of God. God does not want to communicate to men decrees, ideas, rules. What he wants is to manifest himself. It is amazing to think that God, in his goodness, wanted to manifest himself in this way. This is the mystery of the will to salvation; God has a project with an objective: salvation for a whole people, for each of us. This is fundamental. The Christian life is not an exercise of virtues but a relationship with Christ.
This relationship of friendship shows us clearly how we are invited to listen to God. Not in a frightening vision of God but, without being afraid of him, to be under the gaze of a friend who wants us well because he knows who we are (John 15:14-15). Here we are at the heart of faith. The goal of God’s revelation: a communion of life, entering into the relationship of love established at the heart of the Trinity. This is the Christian life: communion in God, entering into this relationship of love in which the Father gives himself to the Son, the Son gives himself to the Father and the Spirit flows from this relationship of love.
Listening to God
At the beginning, God has the initiative: he wants to talk to us in order to be in communion with us, so that we can be in communion with him. This is decisive, it changes everything. Have I grasped God’s desire to enter into a relationship with me?
This communion is not limited to the word, but God also reveals himself through facts in history, which is the manifestation of this relationship with God. It is up to us to look at events as God who speaks to us even through facts. What is God saying to me through this event, this failure, this difficulty? And where can we find spiritual men and women who know how to read events, to discern what is happening in our families, in our lives, in the Church? This is only possible if we are spiritual people, that is, people guided by the Holy Spirit. And the fundamental criterion for glimpsing and reading the action of God is the criterion of our poverty and weakness. Because God chooses what is not worthy, what is depreciated, despised. Because God looks at the heart and not the appearance. In a family, parents are the communicators of a story when they tell their children how God creates a covenant and invites us to live a relationship of friendship.
How do we live our relationship with God? It is difficult and that is why the great spiritual masters say that the most important part of our encounter with God is the preparatory phase, preparing ourselves to meet the supreme leader who said to the prophet Jeremiah: “I have loved you with an everlasting love”. This revelation that God makes of himself culminates not in God being recognized as the prime mover, the one who kicked off the world, but in God being recognized as a father capable of a love that is eternal.
The first fundamental attitude is to marvel at God, at his love for the other. As a couple, as a family, we must never lose this enchantment of the encounter. We must arrive at death, alive!
Listening to the other
If you really want to listen to someone, you must welcome him or her unconditionally, as God does with each of us. You become a listener of a story in which God has manifested and revealed himself.
Conclusion with Amoris Laetitia – The Joy of Love
But words are not enough, gestures are needed. God is not only revealed through words, but also through gestures, through actions. Archbishop Morandi concludes by quoting three paragraphs from chapter 9 of the exhortation Amoris Laetitia – The Joy of Love, entitled: The Spirituality of Marriage and the Family.
AL 321. …”Life as a couple is a daily sharing in God’s creative work, and each person is for the other a constant challenge from the Holy Spirit. God’s love is proclaimed “through the living and concrete word whereby a man and the woman express their conjugal love”.385 The two are thus mutual reflections of that divine love which comforts with a word, a look, a helping hand, a caress, an embrace.
AL 322. Marital fruitfulness involves helping others, for to love anybody is to expect from him something which can neither be defined nor foreseen; it is at the same time in some way to make it possible for him to fulfil this expectation…
AL 323. It is a profound spiritual experience to contemplate our loved ones with the eyes of God and to see Christ in them. … We can be fully present to others only by giving fully of ourselves and forgetting all else. Our loved ones merit our complete attention.”
If we learn to listen with the heart, we will have words that will be able to create communion and we will have gestures that will become symbols of this communion.
*Giacomo Morandi is Bishop of the Diocese of Reggio Emilia-Guastalla. He was previously Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.