Support us on Paypal
Contact Us
Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - You Have Been Loved Into Being

Robert Barron - You Have Been Loved Into Being

Robert Barron - You Have Been Loved Into Being

Peace be with you. Friends, I'd like to begin today by looking at our first reading, from the Book of Wisdom. It makes an extraordinarily important observation that's of both theological and philosophical significance. In light of that, I'm going to read our famous gospel about Zacchaeus. But first, the Book of Wisdom. Listen to this, he's speaking to the Lord. "For you love all things that are, and loathe nothing that you've made. For what you hated, you would not have fashioned, and how could a thing remain unless you willed it"?

As I say, there's so much packed into that little remark. Here's a question that's fundamental in both the theological and spiritual orders. Namely, why does God create? It's a puzzle actually. God is God, supremely perfect, supremely happy in himself. Why does God create something other than himself? Why does he give rise to a world? It can't be out of need. I might make something, or I might give rise to something out of a certain need that I have, but God has no needs. The world adds nothing to his greatness. It can't. Why does he create? The answer of the great tradition, with its roots in the Bible, is God creates not out of need, but to manifest and to share his glory. In other words, he does so out of sheerest love.

Now, I've been on this a lot. Anyone that's been following me knows I go on and on about this. I don't want to be tiresome about it, but it's such an important point. We should not sentimentalize the word love as though it has a lot to do with feelings. Feelings can accompany love, but love, as Thomas Aquinas puts it, is to will the good of the other as other. I want what's good for you, not because it will redound to my benefit, but because it's good for you. Love is breaking out of the ego, it's breaking away from the self toward the other. Here's the thing, everybody. God can only be in that stance vis a vis the world precisely because he doesn't need the world, precisely because the world adds nothing.

God can't gain from the world, therefore, he loves the world into being. He simply wills the good of the world. With that in mind, listen again. "For you love all things that are, and loathe nothing that you have made. For what you hated, you would not have fashioned". That's a metaphysical truth. The very fact that something exists means that it's been loved into being. Let that sink in. Your spiritual life will change, trust me. Whatever exists, exists because of the divine love. Further, "How could a thing remain unless you willed it"?

Again, the world adds nothing to God's greatness. Therefore, if something exists in the universe, it's because God is continually willing it's good. That's why Aquinas beautifully speaks of "Creatio Continua" in his Latin, continual creation. We get misled right away. We think, "Creation happened a long time ago. The big bang, that's when creation happened". No, creation is happening now. It's the act by which God, through a sheer expression of love, is giving rise to the universe. Therefore, from Archangels to cockroaches, and everything in between, what you see is a manifestation of the divine love.

That's why, in all the stars and the galaxies and all the complexity of the physical universe, in all of it, what you see is this overwhelming, overflowing expression of the divine love. It's right in line here with Isaiah's famous observation, when he channels the words of the Lord. Could a mother forget her child? I can't think about a mother... Unless she was deeply impaired, or she's deeply corrupt, a mother, could she forget her own child? Even if she forgets, I will never forget you. Why? Because, in that beautiful image, I've carved you in the Palm of my hand. That's how close we are to God. We've been loved into being.

Now, just pause a second, everybody listening to me right now, because we are so easily drawn into a very different and dysfunctional spiritual space, which is this. God is a distant tyrant who's making this impossible, moral demand on me all the time, brooding over me, judging me every minute. If and only if I can get myself up to a certain moral level will God take me seriously. That's just wrong. That's just as wrong as it could be. Could a mother forget her baby? Even if she forgets, I'll never forget you, because you're always already carved in the Palm of my hand. You're always already being loved into existence. That's the basic truth of the Bible. It's called the principle of the primacy of grace. The spiritual life begins with an acknowledgement of the primacy of grace.

Whatever is, that includes you and me, whatever is, is being loved here and now, into existence. Okay? Whatever else you want to say about the spiritual life, there is a lot more we can say, it's got to be grounded there. If it's not, trouble ensues. Read the history of theology and spirituality if you want the details, but even consult your own life, if you want to see what that looks like, when the spiritual life gets off on the wrong path. All of that is a preparation for our reading of this marvelous gospel about Zacchaeus. You know the story well, right? Zacchaeus, in a typically biblical manner, is described in a few deft strokes.

The biblical authors, both Old Testament and New, are so brilliant at this. They don't write lengthy psychological portraits. They sketch a person's character in a few little lines. What do we hear about Zacchaeus? That he's an architelones in the Greek. That means not just a telones, which is a tax collector, he's an architelones, which means he's a supreme tax collector. As you know, tax collectors were especially hated by the Jews of Jesus' time, because they were Jews who betrayed their own people by collaborating with the hated Romans, and extorting money from the people. In practically every case, they would skim off the top of what they collected from their own people, who were poor, and could barely afford these taxes.

They skimmed off the top, and we hear this, too. Not only is he an architelones, he's a top tax collector, he's also a wealthy man. That means, he's been at this for a long time. That means, he's been skimming money off the top, and extorting things, and betraying his people for a long time. We hear, famously, that he was short in stature. The point here is, he's a man who is small physically, but more importantly, he's small spiritually. He's a small man physically and spiritually. But, by an instinct, listen to me, by an instinct grounded in the very metaphysics that I outlined a few minutes ago, that here and now, even this lousy guy, even this crummy guy Zacchaeus, this man small in stature and small in soul, even he is carved in the palms of God's hands.

Even he has been loved into being. Why? He wouldn't exist unless God were already loving him. It's that truth, that maybe it's incoherently known by Zacchaeus, maybe just in the vaguest sense, but he knows it. By that instinct, he climbs the Sycamore tree as Jesus is passing by. Beautiful. I've seen this in the course of my pastoral ministry, you can see it in the spiritual literature of the world, up and down the centuries. Very often, those who are most lost, we say, "Boy, that person is a million miles from gone," somehow they, by this deep instinct, look, and they're questing.

Think of Herod listening to John the Baptist as he preaches in the prison to which Herod had confined him. Zacchaeus, by this deep instinct, seeks. He looks for Jesus. In this beautiful moment, the Lord sees him. "Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today, I must stay at your house". This little spark of interest in this deeply sinful man, the small man, but that little spark of interest that led him to climb the tree met the infinite desire of God for all of us sinners. That's what happens. All God needs, and maybe people listening to me right now feel like Zacchaeus. You feel like, "What I've done in my life, I'm a million miles from God".

I know, but all God needs is one little spark of interest, and his infinite desire for you is expressed. "Zacchaeus, come down. I want to stay at your house today". This is biblical code, isn't it? To stay at someone's house means to move utterly into his life. Remember, CS Lewis had that marvelous image of the house, and most of us Christians were happy to entertain Jesus for about an hour, once a week, in the front parlor of the house. We don't want him invading the other rooms of the house. We don't want him in our lives. That's not the way Jesus operates. When he comes into your life, he's taking over the whole house. Yep, the whole house, every room. Every aspect of your life, he's going to move in. This is that marvelous invasion of grace.

If you show that little spark of interest, the infinite love and mercy of God comes pouring into your life, and it wants dominance, he's the Lord, the Dominus, dominance over every aspect of your life. Beautiful. Then, here's what I want you to see everybody. What does this invasion of grace give rise to? Conversion. Listen to Zacchaeus. "Behold, half my possessions Lord, I'll give to the poor. If I've extorted anything from anyone, I'll repay it four times over". If I've extorted? He's extorted everybody. If he's taken more of this? He did that with everybody. He's going to repay it four times over. This guy is going to give his whole life away now.

Notice though, the rhythm please. Please, notice the rhythm. It's not, "Zacchaeus converted, and therefore, Jesus came into his life". The opposite. Jesus comes into his life, and therefore, he converts. Oh, how we love to look at each other through our judgemental eyes, and say, "Not up to it. Look at that Zacchaeus over there. Look at what that person's doing. Unless they get it together," no, that's not biblical logic at all. That's Pharisaic logic. That's the logic of sinners. Do you want to see it, by the way? Go anytime of the day or night on Catholic social media, and go into comment boxes. You'll see plenty of that attitude, trust me. That's not the Bible. That's not the Bible. That's sinful rumination.

The Bible is one little spark born of the fact that we know we've been loved into existence meets the infinite mercy of God. Then, it gives rise naturally to this conversion. Look how this ends, and can everyone listen to me, both sinners who feel lost, and maybe some of the Pharisees, too. Listen. How does Jesus sum up this story? "For the son of man has come to seek, and to save what was lost". "Oh no, the son of man came to judge everybody. The son of man came so we'd have a criterion to know who's in, who's out, who's right". Come on, that's Pharisaic logic. That's the logic of the world. The logic of the Bible is right here. "The son of man has come to seek, and to save what was lost". Do you feel lost? All God needs is that little spark of interest, and his mercy will come flooding into your house. God bless you.
Are you Human?:*