Sunday, June 27, 2010

On the Knowledge of God

Yesterday (June26th) I had the privilege of celebrating a gay marriage for my two friends, Todd and Jud. The celebration took place at the annual gathering of A Celebration of Friends in Fort Lauderdale, and this year nearly 700 elderly gay men and their admirers attended. About 50 men attended the wedding. Both Todd and Jud were so filled with joy that they burst into tears as they pronounced their wedding vows and had to wipe each other's eyes to continue reading their vows. There was not a dry eye in the room.

I selected as my text for a very brief homily, that magnificent passage in the first epistle of St. John, chapter 4: "If anyone loves they know God, because God is love." This has led me to the following reflections on the knowledge of God.

We can never capture God intellectually in a concept. God is never an object outside ourselves. God can only be known subjectively within our own self-awareness as subject and not as object. Medieval theologians were fond of saying: "You can grasp God with your mind, never! But you can grasp God with your heart, ever!" To say that "God is love" is to say that the only knowledge we can have of that God is within our self-consciousness when we place an action of love. Love is the ultimate sacramental reality. Whenever we place an action of love, then by God's grace we are experiencing a sharing of divine life. This is the meaning of the ancient Christian hymn: "Ubi caratas est, ibi Deus est!" When and wherever love is, there God is.

Notice that this means that ultimately no intellectual content is required for a knowledge of God. But vital actions of love are absolutely required. St. John even hints at the fact that anyone who has never loved has no knowledge of God.

This implies too that in its essence Christian belief is an orthopraxis and not an orthodoxy! (I was hungry and you fed me! Therefore enter into the kingdom of heaven!) If any human being loves they enter into a living vital relation with the divine no matter what their ideas about God are. Intellectually they can be an atheist, but if they are a lover they have knowledge of God in their heart.

In one of the most beautiful statements in his book Philosophy of Action, Maurice Blondel wrote this about the Christian understanding of God: "Our God dwells within us, and the only way we can become one with that God is to become one with our authentic self." What consoling words for those of us who are LGBT people! Our only path to oneness with God is not through denial of our sexual orientation but through acceptance and celebration of that orientation as a special gift from God and living it out in its fullness to the best of our ability.

At yesterday's wedding ceremony I was able to assure with complete confidence the two men pronouncing their vows that in their sexual expression of their mutual love they would have one of the most profound experiences of God's love. As the lovers put it in the Song of Songs: "The flash of it (their sexual orgasm) was a flash of fire. It was the breath of Yahwey himself!" If sexual expression is within the context of genuine human love, it carries within itself a wonderful experience of God's love.

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