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Function Follows Form

Deacon Keith Fournier
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Catholic Online


“Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”(St. Paul to the Philippians, Chapter Two)


We live in a “functional” age. One of its bad fruits has been the tendency to reduce human beings to human doings. It is an empty age, an age of Nihilism, where the perceived “value” of a person is often gauged by what they “do”, rendering them producers rather than persons. Sadly, these errors have permeated every level of our existence together.

For example, it encourages a wrong view of human work, the approach Pope John Paul II rightly labeled “economism.” To evaluate someone’s “worth” by how much money they “produce” is a symptom of the disease spread by the practical materialism of our age; a philosophy that views only material “things” as important. The bad fruit of this error and the frantic pace of existence that it often promotes, robs so many people from finding the primacy of love, drinking in the beauty of art, and receiving the gifts of contemplation, creativity and leisure, all of which are integral to being fully human.

How refreshing, it seems to me, that our new Pope, Benedict XVI, one of the great theologians and writers of our age, assumes the burden of the Chair of Peter at a critical time in the history of the Church - and the world into which she is sent on a rescue mission- and then proceeds to take a vacation, for prayer, contemplation, writing and re-creation. What a sign of contradiction this must seem to some. However, it is profound and prophetic.

How often have we heard the expression “Form follows function?” So often I submit, that upon first glance, you may have thought that was the title of this piece. It is not. In fact, the very phrase belies the problem I am attempting to address. We have elevated function over form, doing over being, and, in so doing, we have lost sight of an existential truth; who we are is always prior to - and meant to in-form - what we do. What we do will only fulfill us as human persons if it advances our becoming who we were created to be - and who we choose to become - as we co-operate with God’s continued work of creation and re-creation in Jesus Christ through the life of grace.

The oft-repeated paragraph 22 from "Joy and Hope", (Gaudium et Spes) the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, promulgated by the Second Vatican Council, was known to be one of the late Pope John Paul II’s favorites. Some maintain he actually wrote it as a young cardinal in attendance at the Council. The paragraph gives us an insight into his Christian humanism. It also permeates his writings and is a key to understanding his deep seated hope, supernatural optimism and inspiring faith:

"In reality, it is only in the mystery of the word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear. For Adam, was a type of him who was to come, Christ the lord, Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of His love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling."

It is of this Jesus Christ that the Apostle Paul writes in the passage with which I began this reflection. God Incarnate emptied Himself. In the Greek, the word “kenosis” is used. It means that He poured Himself out like a drink offering, out of love and for love, taking the “form” of a servant. In His Sacred Humanity, Jesus Christ thereby shows us that function follows form - and not the other way around. The God who is Love, out of love for us, loved completely and fully. He gave Himself completely for us. We are now called to give ourselves to Him and, in Him, for others. He does what he is. So it should be with each one of us.

We have been created in the Image of God. We are called into the fullness of communion with the Father in and through Jesus Christ, by the working of the Holy Spirit. God became like us- in all things but sin - so that we could become like Him. To embrace this is to learn to live and love differently, to discover the “mystery of man”. Through our Baptism into Jesus Christ we are now capacitated to live and to love as Jesus lived and loved, in His sacred humanity. That is our truest identity and our ...

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