How Does One Love God with the Soul? (Part II of II)
Editor’s Note: In part I, we looked at the x-ray of a soul and the kinds of souls that plants and animals have. Today, we examine the problems with the philosophical distinction called a soul and how the soul is beloved of God.
Herewith is the question we are examining:
Dear Father John, Jesus talks about loving God with all one’s soul. How do we do that?
Problems with the Soul
Those basic philosophical distinctions [we discussed in part I of this series] have been challenged in modern and post-modern times. Biologists have discovered so many varieties of life that were completely unknown to previous eras, for example, that the distinctions between vegetative and locomotive, or between sentient and nutritive, are much more fluid. Viruses, bacteria, extremophiles–where do they all fit into the continuum between simple plant and complex animal? It’s not always easy to tell.
Post-modern secularists also question the distinction between spiritual and non-spiritual souls. Many of them argue that what used to be considered spiritual is really just epiphenomenal, just an excretion of predetermined material and biological processes. According to this point of view, the human soul is no more spiritual, and therefore possesses no more dignity, than any other animal soul. The difference between a human being and a dolphin, therefore, is only a difference of degree, not a difference of kind.
These challenges to the Christian vision of the human person can be and have been met and overcome by Christian philosophers, scientists, and apologists. And their arguments simply reinforce the basic tenets of our faith, the basic truths revealed by God, that the human soul is unique among the many creatures of the visible universe, and uniquely valued and addressed by God.
The Beloved Soul
Before we love at all, we are loved, infinitely and intimately, utterly and unconditionally, passionately and personally, by God. This must be the starting place for our reflection on what it means to love God with all our soul. Every component of our humanity is included in this love God has for us. The greatest proof of this astounding truth came with the Incarnation, when God himself took on human nature, becoming fully and truly man in Jesus Christ. Never again can we doubt that every aspect of the human condition, even though tangled and distorted by sin, is fundamentally good, and that God wants to redeem it all.
We have to consciously give ourselves permission, so to speak, to accept this truth. Otherwise, the difficult and often painful process of allowing God’s grace to bring order and healing to the dizzying complexity of our souls may spark discouragement or resentment.
The Catechism announces our fundamental dignity and belovedness loud and clear:
Of all visible creatures only man is “able to know and love his creator.” He is “the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake,” and he alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God’s own life. It was for this end that he was created, and this is the fundamental reason for his dignity. (CCC, 356)
In his inaugural homily, Pope Benedict XVI expressed the same truth with even more gusto:
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.*
*Benedict XVI, Homily, April 24, 2005.
Editor’s Note: This is another excerpt from Father John Bartunek’s new book “Seeking First the Kingdom” filled with “practical examples and down-to-earth wisdom which will show you how to bring Christ into each facet of your life”. Click here to learn more about the book…or if you wish to get it for a friend or relative who doesn’t read on line.
Art: Mirror of Poem of the Soul – The Flight of the Soul, Louis Janmot, 1854, PD-US, Restored Traditions, used with permission.