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Voices Online Edition
Lent - Easter 2006

Inside Voices

by Helen Hull Hitchcock

Love and Life

“The purpose of our lives is to reveal God to men”, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed in his homily at his inauguration Mass last April 24. “And only where God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary. There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him”.

No one can forget the events of just a year ago when the death of Pope John Paul II, who had led the Church for more than a quarter century, brought his historic papacy to a close, and the Conclave that followed gave us our new Pope Benedict. These were intense days, densely packed with events of great importance, not just to Catholics, but to the whole world. It seemed fitting that they coincided with Holy Week and Eastertide -- the most intense period of the Church’s liturgical year. Through sorrow and death to hope and new life.

In this issue of Voices, we commemorate the late Holy Father -- with a reminiscence by Catholic journalist Peggy Noonan, and our “Young Writer” awardee, Sarah Halbur. And in this issue, too, we bring you in its entirety the much-anticipated first encyclical of Pope Benedict, Deus Caritas Est -- God is Love.

The title of this first encyclical is significant: “God is Love”, from the First Letter of John, is surely the first bit of the Bible that every Christian child learns by heart. But not only is this phrase implanted in our earliest memories, it is the essence of our faith distilled into three little words -- words that form the foundation of our entire lives on earth -- as individuals and as members of society. They assure us of the intrinsic worth of each human life, from beginning to end. It is God’s love that forms us from the beginning, and sustains us through everything, good or bad, that we encounter throughout our lives. Debbie Joslin’s account of the brief life of baby Isaiah is a poignant reminder that “Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary”.

God’s love is our blessed assurance; the source of our faith and our hope. And it is also our responsibility. For Christians, it gives us the purpose of our lives: “to reveal God to men”; to our families, our neighbors, and to all the world. This is the Great Commission our risen Lord gives us: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation”. (Mark 16:15)

In his first homily as Pope Benedict, as in his first encyclical, the Holy Father speaks of freedom and human dignity. Fear of losing our personal freedom sometimes makes people reject Christ and His love. But the truth is that our accepting this love is the only basis of authentic freedom. “If we let Christ into our lives we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation”. And the Pope especially addresses young people, who are the “new life” of the Church -- young Christians like Molly McCann, whose stand for life (her report is in this issue) is a witness and an example for us all: “Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and He gives you everything. When we give ourselves to Him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ -- and you will find true life”.

“New Life” -- the symbol of Easter -- is the title of the painting on our cover. A word of description: the little church is the Ash Rock Church, built by Kansas pioneers in 1883 of native limestone. My grandfather was minister there in the 1950s. The view of the little church surrounded by cedars, across fields greening with new wheat, the trees with tender new leaves, and plum bushes just bursting into blossom, shows all creation joined in an unending hymn of praise, whose source and fulfillment is symbolized by the church. The decrepit fence in the foreground is, in reality, a stone’s throw from the cemetery on a hill where my ancestors are buried — including my mother, Kelly Hull, who painted this picture, and my father, Lee Hull, whose illness coincided with Pope John Paul’s, and who died last April only days after watching the pope’s funeral. He was much strengthened in faith and comforted by the homily of then-Cardinal Ratzinger, which quoted these words of Scripture: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love” (John 15:9), and “My brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved”. (Philemon 4:1)

Truly, “There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him”.

We wish you a blessed Lent, and a joyous Eastertide.

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