If Benedict XVI were remembered solely as the only pope to resign in almost six hundred years, a conservative who favored traditional church doctrine, and the pontiff who had to deal with the brunt of the sexual abuse scandal, it would do a brilliant thinker a great disservice.
He was a wonderful writer.
His death has renewed interest in his books and led to the publication today in Italy of What is Christianity?, a collection of his essays, letters, and articles, mostly written in 2018. Yet God Is Love, published soon after he became pope, is probably the most accessible and rewarding introduction to his work.
When Benedict died on Dec. 31, The New York Times called him “a quiet scholar of diamond-hard intellect.” While recounting the controversies that marred his papacy, The Times also noted that “his pastoral letters, or encyclicals, on love, hope and charity were acclaimed as wise and eloquent.”
“In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence, this message is both timely and significant. For this reason, I wish in my first Encyclical to speak of the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in turn must share with others.”
The book is only about one hundred pages long, but it reveals much about this often-criticized pope.
Why Christians should read God Is Love
God Is Love contains insights about the nature of Christian love that will make you stop and think.
The big takeaway
Benedict may not have been loved like his predecessor, John Paul II, or his successor, Francis, but he has much to teach us about the nature of love.
In his own words
“Jesus identifies himself with those in need, with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison. ‘As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me’ (Mt 25:40). Love of God and love of neighbor have become one: in the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in Jesus we find God.”
“Corresponding to the image of a monotheistic God is monogamous marriage. Marriage based on exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa. God’s way of loving becomes the measure of human love.”
“God’s passionate love for his people—for humanity—is at the same time a forgiving love. It is so great that it turns God against himself, his love against his justice. Here Christians can see a dim prefigurement of the mystery of the Cross: so great is God’s love for man that by becoming man he follows him even into death and so reconciles justice and love.”