Secondo l'Affetività del Cuore...

Recently, I've been getting more involved in the Communione e Liberazione group on campus. Part of the regular routine of the 'School of Community' factor has been reading the works of Msgr. Luigi Giussani, the movement's founder and theologian. Without a doubt, Giussani's writings always leave you with a nugget of truth to consider throughout the next week, until you come back for a little more.

This past week, the discussion came from a chapter, entitled "Obedience." The focus of this section—as much as we have talked about so far—has been the events surrounding Christ's multiplication of the loaves, and the subsequent call to eat his flesh and drink his blood. The two events, says Giussani, are not coincidental; they are, rather, providentially arranged so that after being nourished physically by the miracle of the loaves, the crowd finds itself hungering for more of the same. They seek out Jesus continually, until finally he is in a position to tell them something they need to hear. Something big.

"You follow me because I satisfied your hunger with bread, freely, but I offer you something else to eat; I give you my flesh to eat and my blood as drink. And he who eats of this bread and drinks of this blood will live forever." (Si Può Vivere Così, 136) The response to this invitation, a resounding disapproval. A few remain. "To whom else can we go? You have the words of eternal life," asks Peter. This part is well known.

But what occurs in the hearts of those disciples? What caused Peter to utter his words? It is this that Giussani focuses upon. "I don't understand this," he supposes Peter was thinking, "but if I go away from him, no one else can speak to me according to the desires of my heart." (138)

This idea of 'speaking to the heart' is absolutely pertinent to a discussion of obedience in the Christian sense. As Catholics, especially, we are called to an obedience to the truth as it is understood and taught by the Magisterium of the Church. This obedience, however, does not arise from some efficient causation—we are not compelled to obedience, for that would not be obedience but slavery. Neither is obedience appealing because it enables us to avoid punishment, since that is equally as unfree. Rather, obedience is appealing to the Christian precisely because it is a language aimed at the desires of the heart; it is the fitting response to the Lord's call to us that we should follow him and find eternal life and happiness in communion with his Son.

This causes me to wonder a few things. Namely, since human beings are quite obviously wired for happiness and goodness, why is it that we are so quick to act contrary to the desires of our heart? After all, it wasn't the case with Peter that the Lord introduced new desires to his being, but rather that he tapped into those already present. Assumably, the same would have been true for the crowd that left. Didn't Christ tap into their deepest desires as well? After all, he is God—he can do that! But why, then, did they so quickly leave him? No doubt they were scandalized, but why?

The answer, I think, arises from the same innately human locale as the desires of the heart. As human persons, we so often desire to construct our own conceptions of reality that we fail to see the ones planted within our very being as having any value. Often, we are so quick to put forth our own ideas of how things should fit together that we fail to see the coherence of the picture before our eyes. Even more, we fail to see that not only does the picture cohere with itself, but that it actually corresponds to reality as well!

This is exactly what Christ offers those to whom he gives his Body and Blood for food and drink. He speaks to the heart, completes the picture, and bestows a knowledge of reality so deep that it seems utterly scandalous. But, as Giussani presents to us, it is precisely because it seems so scandalous in the beginning that it is so truly fitting and magnificent in the end.