“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” –the Shema.
We might generally associate the word ‘reliability’ with a well-built car or washing machine. But the Holy Father, Pope Francis, uses the word ‘reliability’ repeatedly in the decisive passages of his encyclical on Christian faith. The ‘reliability’ of God’s love emerges as the theme of paragraphs 15-17.
Having summarized the history of Israel, the Pope writes:
The history of Jesus is the complete manifestation of God’s reliability…God can give us no greater guarantee of His love…In the love of God revealed in Jesus, faith perceives the foundation on which all reality and its final destiny rest…
The clearest proof of the reliability of Christ’s love is to be found in his dying for our sake…In Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, Prince Myshkin sees a painting by Hans Holbein the Younger depicting Christ dead in the tomb and says: “Looking at that painting might cause one to lose his faith.” …Yet it is precisely in contemplating Jesus’ death that faith grows stronger and receives a dazzling light…
Christ’s death discloses the utter reliability of God’s love above all in the light of his resurrection. As the risen one, Christ is the trustworthy witness, deserving of faith, and a solid support for our faith…Had the Father’s love not caused Jesus to rise from the dead, had it not been able to restore his body to life, then it would not be a completely reliable love, capable of illuminating also the gloom of death…Precisely because Jesus is the Son, because he is absolutely grounded in the Father, he was able to conquer death and make the fullness of life shine forth.
Our culture has lost its sense of God’s tangible presence and activity in our world. We think that God is to be found in the beyond, on another level of reality, far removed from our everyday relationships. But if this were the case, if God could not act in the world, his love would not be truly powerful, truly real, and thus not even true…It would make no difference at all whether we believed in him or not.
Christians, on the contrary, profess their faith in God’s tangible and powerful love which really does act in history and determines its final destiny: a love that can be encountered, a love fully revealed in Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection.