by Natalie Yuhas
The Church in the 21st Century Center recently published the third C21 Resources issue, “Living Catholicism: Roles and Relationships for a Contemporary World,” in honor of both Boston College's Sesquicentennial and the Church in the 21st Century Center's 10th anniversary. To accompany the magazine, C21 presented Fr. Michael Himes, who edited the magazine, as a speaker on Thursday, October 3 in Gasson 100. There was a full audience present of both students and residents from the surrounding areas. Fr. Himes used four points from Pope Francis’ recent interview in America magazine to guide his talk.
The first point Fr. Himes talked about was “God in the web of human relationships.” In western cultures, Fr. Himes explained, there is a tendency to think of your personal, private relationship with God as the only way and the best way to have a relationship with God. This is a misunderstanding, however, because at the heart of what it means to be Catholic is community. Humans were made to be social. Fr. Himes turned to Genesis to explain how people were made for one another in God’s image and are meant to be in relationship with one another, just as God is a “relationship” in the Holy Trinity. God is better understood as love or as relationship than as a person. Fr. Himes used the analogy of a knot on an afghan to represent the web of relationships we have with one another. He said that you cannot pull up one knot on an afghan without pulling up the whole thing, just as God cannot pull up one person without pulling up other people. “We are who we are because we are connected to everyone else.” God emerges from our relationships, and Fr. Himes argues it is important to find God through that love because God is love.
Fr. Himes next addressed God as a mystery. Instead of having this idea of God that fits our lives, we should acknowledge that God is “bigger.” We will never be able to truly know or understand God, and He will certainly not be able to fit into a preconceived notion we have of Him. The only way to find the truth, Fr. Himes argued, is through living. We get a clearer image of the truth through our actions and “discover it bit by bit.”
Not only is God bigger than what we can understand, Fr. Himes noted, but God is also always in process. There is no clear beginning or end because God is never finished with the story. To explain his point further, Fr. Himes told a story about when he was younger and would go to the movie theater. There used to be movies running continuously at the time, so often times he would show up and only see a movie from whatever point it was at until the end and then stay for the movie to begin again so he could see the beginning and the parts he missed. Fr. Himes compared the story of salvation to going and seeing a movie. We know that the end of the story is that “God wins.” We know that there will be peace and love at the end, but we don’t know how we will get there. God is writing a continual story involving all of us.
Lastly, Fr. Himes talked about discernment and knowing God. He said, “God’s way is to be content with the least.” To know God, we cannot look to money, power, or influence. The best way to know God is to look for the smallest things. The key to discernment, Himes argued, is to look where you never thought to look. Fr. Himes encouraged the audience to not look for standards of success in the Church because God does not need big deeds and big offerings. God needs all the little deeds that make the big deeds possible.
After expanding on the four points from Pope Francis’ interview, Fr. Himes accepted questions from the audience for 15 minutes. He explained that even though we are in a web of relationship and will be saved through other people, we cannot solely depend on others because the only way to receive the gift of God’s love is to give it away, and we can only accept faith by giving faith.
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