God, Christ, and Us is a compilation of twenty-seven sermons of the famous English theologian Herbert McCabe. Each sermon is contained in from four to six pages. A traveling preacher does not have to attend to repetition as much as a stable pastor homilist. Thus we find seven principal themes repeated throughout the sermons: God, self, love, prayer, community, sin, and the poor. But, at the same time, Fr. McCabe did not collect the sermons, Brian Davies did. Fr. McCabe died in 2001. Thus this collection of sermons reaches back several years before his death. They are a joy to read and each theme combines the originality of Fr. McCabe's thoughts with the concern of his faith to, hopefully, deepen us in that same faith.
God is certainly a God of love and mystery. McCabe finds many different ways of expressing both these certainties. Both these certainties are, in their own way, inclusive of the other. For if love is without boundaries, then our God is infinite, eternal, and without boundaries—mysterious. When God does come into a boundary situation, as Jesus, it is because of love that God does so.
God did indeed love the world but especially God loved humans because humans are unique. We cannot forget, McCabe urges us, that because of our free actions and thoughts we co-create with God, making something that never existed before we began. We are the results of our thoughts and actions. We leave behind, at death, these same results. We look forward to the resurrection as a whole person, body, soul, and spirit.
Part of being whole is not only that we are body but that we are part of a community. We are made for and with others. Everything about us points to others as essential for our being. But it points especially to those others who live and realize the giftedness of life. When we live recognizing that all comes from God as gift we are truly poor. God is poor. God is recognized in the poor. To burden ourselves with possessions is to pretend that the possessions make us who we are. They do not. Our relationships with others make us who we are; just as God as Father, Son, and Spirit is made by relationships, so are we. Community. Recognizing, in our poverty, that we need others. Love as the free gift that binds us together. All of these ideas come together in that idea and reality that is God.
Prayer is the recognition of this connection and our total dependence upon God for everything. McCabe emphasizes over and over again that there is nothing wrong with praying for the mundane things of life: passing tests, healing hurt, getting a job, finding love, and a joyful life. Prayer accepts who we are and asks the giver of all gifts to make us into the divine reality we are destined to become.
Sin is our refusal to love and be loved. We cannot sin without faith for it is in faith that we recognize that we are loved and that we must love self and others in return. We do all kinds of things to avoid being loved as we are. Turning ourselves into something we think worthy of love when the reality is that God loves us for who we are not for what we might become or possess. God first loved us. God first loved the world. First God loves. Then we love. We can do that only in faith. But also, in faith, we realize that we are to love others as God loves us. One constant reality in the scriptures is that God loves those who have nothing. This evident love of God is something we always forget as we go about conquering the world with money, arms, and economic power. Is forgetfulness, lack of faith, sin, inherent in a human nature that seems to heap around itself piles of possessions we might mistake for love? Is there a sin of our world, of our community, that urges us to lust after things and not love people? An original sin that overwhelms us? Kills us? "Yes" is the answer to all the questions.
Jesus came into the world to overcome this sin of the world and show us what love really means: complete dispossession of self. In the cross we discover resurrection, but only in the mystery of the cross do we find the mystery of God and God's love.
McCabe's sermons, through their repetition, help us realize what our faith is all about, and urge us to live that faith. A sermon at a time, well read, meditated on, and lived may be the path to the mysterious cross offered to each of us to accept the love of God expressed in Christ.