Karl Rahner, the late German theologian, delivered a lecture on the Trinity. After the lecture, he opened the floor to questions. A man in the audience asked him about a particular and fine point about the relationship enjoyed by the triune persons of the Blessed Trinity.
Rahner paused for a moment and began to speak of the self-sacrificial work of a nurse in a hospital. He then sketched the living relationship between God and the human as evidenced in the human activities of caring and giving as these flowed from the life work of the nurse.
This little example offers a window into the world of Rahner, who gazed with a very discerning eye on the human and from what he found there, and then wrote and spoke of God's presence in this world. His writings moved from one theme to another -- he wrote of sleep, joy, the Beatles, labor, leisure, time, love, death, hope -- finding in these human activities traces of God's presence in life.
Many of the Gospel readings tell us of the love God has for people, indeed for all creation. Jesus not only spoke of this love. He showed it by his life and actions. The gospel tells us of the pity Jesus had for those who were hungry, and how He satisfied that hunger.
Love is a very popular Google search. You will find that it means a lot of things to a lot of people. We attach the word love to a lot of things: We love pizza. We love zoos. We love football, the opera, Vidal Sassoon shampoo, or living in the country.
So we can be pressed to ask what is the kind of love that God means for us? How do we pull the word from the wreckage of our appetites?
God is generous. He wants to share all that He is with us. No small part of that sharing is creating within us His appetite, His hunger for us, His desire to fill us with Himself.
At some point in his life, Rahner found a key that opened the door to God's ways in this world. Perhaps the reason his books and essays covered so many diverse and wonderful topics is because he sensed the presence of God in and through all things human.
I think it is possible to fall in love with life in the way God intends us to fall in love. It can be a long journey, but it is one through which we discover again and again what life really is. It is an ongoing shift from self-centered appetites, self-serving loves, to the love of the other, to concern for the other, to living for the other.
Living not merely my life, but the life of God within me. For it is then that the themes of life, all that we see and experience, come alive. They are all gifts, waiting to be discovered, seen for what they are -- signatures of God's life in a world He loves and into which He incarnated himself.
Rahner was gifted with basically one insight. That insight was the existence of the pervasive presence of love, of God, in this world. That presence for Rahner enabled him to seek light in the darkest corners of the world. When he found it, he shared it.
Perhaps that is the most lasting gift that words can bring -- showing others where the light exists in spite of the claim that there is only darkness, only death. A real joy in life is seeking the light, finding it, then showing others the beauty where it shines.
Father James Stephen (Jeff) Behrens, O.C.S.O., serves at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Ga. Highway 212 S.W., Conyers. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.