Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Does God Give Us Personal Fulfillment?

"A man is not justified by observance of the law but only through faith in Jesus Christ" (Galatians 2:16).

St. Paul's point is very direct, and it corresponds to Jesus's own testimony. We cannot find our true fulfillment by any kind of action that is within the scope of our power. This is because we are made not for self-generated achievement. We are made for relationship with God. We find our true destiny in the "loss" of our "selves," that is, the self-abandonment, the giving of ourselves over in love to the Infinite One who is the Source of all that we are, and who invites us to share in His own Infinite life.

We think that we can achieve our destiny by actions that we can understand and carry out by ourselves; actions that we can possess entirely, without any relational context, without any loss of ourselves. St. Paul knows that God's people Israel have the Law, with its rituals and precepts. But they are not capable of entering into the interior reality of the Law by themselves. The Law is an expression of the Covenant, which is, in turn, a promise of something greater than itself.

Some in Israel seemed to think that the Law was a formula, a way of conjuring God somehow, a way of making themselves worthy of God while still remaining radically independent of God. They wanted to become god-like without giving themselves to God.

But the Covenant was never meant to be a prescription for self-justification. It was never meant to be a "list-of-things-to-do-to-make-myself-righteous" and thereby secure God's approval while remaining within the enclosure of my own self-satisfaction. The Law points beyond itself; it was given to engender hope, to turn the people of Israel outward, to awaken their desire for a more profound and intimate relationship with the God of the Covenant. To "observe" the Law alone is impossible, except in a superficial, outward sense. The entire Old Testament is alive with the cry and the poignant plea to God for "something more," but also a confident hope that God would bring Himself close and enter into a relationship with His people:

Lord, listen to my prayer:
turn your ear to my appeal.
You are faithful, you are just; give answer.
Do not call your servant to judgment
for no one is just in your sight.

Lord, make haste and answer;
for my spirit fails within me.
Do not hide your face
lest I become like those in the grave.

In the morning let me know your love
for I put my trust in you.
Make me know the way I should walk:
to you I lift up my soul.

(Psalm 143:1-2, 7-8)

Jesus Christ is the answer to this prayer. "Faith in Jesus Christ" draws us into a gift of ourselves to Him, through that hopeful and loving trust engendered in us by His grace that awakens us to mystery of our vocation. God calls us to share in His life, to become "like Him" in a way beyond anything we could have imagined. We are called to share in Jesus's love for the Father in the Spirit.

It turns out that "giving myself away totally to God" is not something that demeans my freedom or results in the loss of my dignity as a person. On the contrary, it is the realization of freedom and of the person. For God Himself is Infinite Self-Giving Love. The Trinity reveals that total self giving is at the very root of what it means to be a person.

Jesus says, "I am in the Father and the Father is in me" (John 14:11). And we will fulfill the true meaning of ourselves as persons, we will achieve the destiny and fulfillment for which we have been created, by abandoning ourselves to Him and trusting in Him: "Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 10:39).

We have been created to become gifts, to realize our freedom as love, to live in relationship as persons, and to "find ourselves" forever in relationship to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.