Saturday, May 14, 2016

Daily Thought For May 14, 2016

God Has A Name

The Revelation of John speaks of the adversary of God, the “beast”. This beast, the power opposed to God, has no name, but a number. The seer tells us: “Its number is six hundred and sixty-six” (13:18). It is a number, and it makes men numbers. We who lived through the world of the concentration camps know what that means. The terror of that world is rooted in the fact that it obliterates men’s faces. It obliterates their history. It makes man a number, an exchangeable cog in one big machine. He is his function—nothing more. Today, we must fear that the concentration camp was only a prelude and that the universal law of the machine may impose the structure of the concentration camp on the world as a whole. For when functions are all that exist, man, too, is nothing more than a function. The machines that he himself has constructed now impose their own law on him: he must be made readable for the computer, and this can be achieved only when he is translated into numbers. Everything else in man becomes irrelevant. Whatever is not a function is—nothing. The beast is a number, and it makes men numbers. But God has a name, and God calls us by our name. He is a Person, and he seeks the person. He has a face, and he seeks our face. He has a heart, and he seeks our heart. For him, we are not some function in a “world machinery”. On the contrary, it is precisely those who have no function that are his own. A name allows me to be addressed. A name denotes community. This is why Christ is the true Moses, the fulfillment of the revelation of God’s name. He does not bring some new word as God’s name; he does more than this, since he himself is the face of God. He himself is the name of God. In him, we can address God as “you”, as person, as heart. His own name, Jesus, brings the mysterious name at the burning bush to its fulfillment; now we can see that God had not said all that he had to say but had interrupted his discourse for a time. This is because the name “Jesus” in its Hebrew form includes the word “Yahweh” and adds a further element to it: God “saves”. “I am who I am”—thanks to Jesus, this now means: “I am the one who saves you.” His Being is salvation.

In the Church’s calendar, today (March 8) is the feast of Saint John “of God”, the founder of the Hospitaller Brothers who continue even today to care for the sick. From the time of his conversion onward, the life of this man was a continuous pouring out of himself for other people, for the suffering and the rejected, as well as for those who were poorest of all at that time, the mentally ill and prostitutes, for whom he sought to make a new life possible. The letters he wrote give a striking impression of the passion with which this man was consumed for the oppressed. “I am working here in debt, and I am a captive for the sake of Christ. Often I owe so much that I dare not go out, in case I am seized for my debts. And when I see so many of my brethren in poverty and my neighbors suffering beyond their strength, oppressed in mind or body by so many cares, and am unable to help them, it causes me exceeding sorrow. But I trust in Christ who knows my heart.” I find it profoundly significant that this man was given the sobriquet “of God”. In this life, totally spent in the service of men, we see in an incomparable manner who God is—the God of the burning bush, the God of Jesus Christ, he who is the right of those who have no rights, he who is eternal and close at hand; he who has names and who gives names. May we, too, be ever more “of God”, so that we may have an ever-deeper knowledge of God and become for others a path to the knowledge of God.

Ratzinger, J. (2008). The God of Jesus Christ: Meditations on the Triune God. (Brian McNeil, Trans.) (pp. 23–25). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.