Great Short Homilies
Pope Benedict the 16th
In a wonderful little book called Feast of Faith, Joseph Ratzinger reminds us that in the experience of Catholic liturgy, “the absolutely Other takes place, the absolutely Other comes among us.” And citing the commentary of St. Gregory of Nyssa on the Song of Songs, he relates how man is described therein as one “who wants to break out of the prison of finitude, out of the closed confines of his ego and of this entire world.” And it is true, Ratzinger tells us, “this world is too small for man, even if he can fly to the Moon, or one day perhaps to Mars. He yearns for the Other, the totally Other, that which is beyond his reach.”
What is ultimately behind all this yearning, of course, is the need to escape death, to surmount the oppressions of a merely time-bound world.
“In all their celebrations,” continues Ratzinger, “men have always searched for that life which is greater than death. Man’s appetite for joy, the ultimate quest for which he wanders restlessly from place to place, only makes sense if it can face the question of death.”
Memorial of Saint John Neumann, Bishop
Friends, in today’s Gospel, Nathaniel recognizes Jesus as the Son of God and King of Israel. Like Nathaniel, once we make the decision for Jesus, once we determine that he is the supreme good, then every other claimant to supremacy must fall away. As I’ve argued many times before, every one of us has something or some set of values that we consider greatest. There is some center of gravity around which everything else turns.
Perhaps it is money and material things. Perhaps it is power and position. Perhaps it is the esteem of others. Perhaps it is your country or your political party or your ethnic identity. Perhaps it is your family, your kids, your wife, your husband.
None of this is false; and none of these things are bad. However, when you place any of them in the absolute center of gravity, things go awry. When you make any of them your ultimate or final good, your spiritual life goes haywire. When you attach yourself to any of them with an absolute tenacity, you will fall apart.
-Bishop Robert Barron