February 14, 2020

The Face of Mercy / Daniel Conway

The Bible is God’s love story to humanity

“The Bible is the great love story between God and humanity. At its center stands Jesus, whose own story brings to fulfillment both God’s love for us and our love for God.” (Pope Francis, 2020 World Day of Communications message)

In his World Day of Communications message, on Jan. 24, and in his homily for Sunday of the Word of God two days later, Pope Francis called attention to the word of God as a love story addressed to us, the people of God, in response to our deep-seated need to know who God is and how we can relate to him and to one another.

“Human beings are storytellers,” the pope noted, “because we are engaged in a process of constant growth, discovering ourselves and becoming enriched in the tapestry of the days of our life.”

The story we Christians have received from both the Old Testament, indirectly, and from the New Testament specifically is Good News. “The One who dwells in heaven has come down to Earth; he became man,” the Holy Father said. “He has torn down walls and shortened distances. We ourselves did not deserve this: He came down to meet us. He wants to stay with us and give us the beauty of life, peace of heart, the joy of being forgiven and feeling loved.

“Yet since the very beginning,” Pope Francis reminded us, “our story has been threatened: evil snakes its way through history.”

Not every story we hear is good news, about happiness, peace or the common good. “In an age when falsification is increasingly sophisticated, reaching exponential levels, we need wisdom to be able to welcome and create beautiful, true and good stories. We need courage to reject false and evil stories. We need patience and discernment to rediscover stories that help us not to lose the thread amid today’s many troubles. We need stories that reveal who we truly are, also in the untold heroism of everyday life.”

The Bible is filled with stories. Some are good, some are bad, some console us, while others challenge us. But through it all, the Scriptures give witness to the uncompromising and unconditional love that God has for us. “At its center stands Jesus, whose own story brings to fulfilment both God’s love for us and our love for God,” the pope said. “Henceforth, in every generation, men and women are called to recount and commit to memory the most significant episodes of this story of stories, those that best communicate its meaning.”

So, Pope Francis insists, the Bible is the great love story between God and humanity. But how well do we pay attention to this story? Do we learn from it and take it to heart? Or do we allow ourselves to be distracted, tragically led astray, by other narratives—the stories of gloom and despair that are told to us in thousands of different ways every hour of the day, using all available media?

“To follow Jesus, mere good works are not enough; we have to listen daily to his call,” Pope Francis said. “He, who alone knows us and who loves us fully, leads us to push out into the depth of life.

“That is why we need his word: So that we can hear, amid the thousands of other words in our daily lives, that one word that speaks to us not about things, but about life.”

Pope Francis encourages us to be in contact with God’s word every day, through apps on our cell phones, by memorizing key passages, or by taking time to reflect on the readings of the day proposed by the Church’s liturgy.

“Since God became story,” the pope said, “every human story is, in a certain sense, a divine story. In the history of every person, the Father sees again the story of his Son who came down to Earth. Every human story has an irrepressible dignity. Consequently, humanity deserves stories that are worthy of it, worthy of that dizzying and fascinating height to which Jesus elevated it.”

In the conclusion of his World Day of Communications message, Pope Francis addressed Mary, the woman and mother who carried God’s word in her womb. “Listen to our stories, hold them in your heart and make your own the stories that no one wants to hear,” he prayed. “Teach us to recognize the good thread that runs through history. … Help us build stories of peace, stories that point to the future. And show us the way to live them together.”

(Daniel Conway is a member of The Criterion’s editorial committee.)

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