Father Joseph V. Corpora, CSC, ’76, ’83 M.Div. | August 11, 2018
About 45 years ago — somewhere between the end of the Baltimore Catechism and the new Catechism of the Catholic Church — when Argus posters had won the day as the best source for theology, I heard of St. Irenaeus. One particular poster featured a flower in bloom accompanied by the words, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” — St. Irenaeus.
I had never heard of St. Irenaeus before, but I really liked the phrase. I remember thinking that I wanted to become fully alive. In my youth at that time, however, I had no idea how hard it would be to become fully alive — in other words, for Christ to be my whole life, my everything. I did not know that it would involve so many deaths and resurrections, so much failure and forgiveness, so much sin and mercy.
Many years have passed since I read those words. There has been a tremendous amount of dying and rising, of sinning and forgiving, more than I ever could have imagined. I have learned many lessons along the way, and I’ve started to develop a theory on what it means to be fully alive.
I do not think that you can become fully alive if you live in a black and white world. To be fully alive, you must be able to live in the gray. In a black and white world, success requires perfection, and the smallest missteps can spell certain disaster. A gray world comes with a safety net: mercy and forgiveness. This safety net makes it possible to fall and fail, but to get up again and again. This safety net makes it possible to trust in God’s relentless mercy. You understand that you will fail, and you know that God will catch you. The safety net teaches us that mercy and grace are unmerited, free and abundant. Therese of Lisieux wrote that "everything is grace." The safety net helps us to understand this and that God can work through everything — good and bad — to bring about good.
Being fully alive, I think, also requires a theology of abundance and generosity. There seem to be two theologies of life, one of abundance and generosity, the other of fear and scarcity. A theology of fear and scarcity means that we think that we’re going to run out of mercy or love or life or air. The apostles often operated out of fear and scarcity. How will we ever feed all these people with so little? And yet we know that their fear was unfounded. In the story of the Loaves and Fishes, not only did they feed the 5,000 members of the gathered crowd, they had more left over afterwards than they had when they started!
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