Lex Cordis Caritas - The law of the heart is Love

by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

The names of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones do not usually come to mind when one thinks of prophets, but their 1969 song, You Can't Always Get What You Want, is certainly prophetic. Coming at the end of the decade, the song has been described as a reflection on three major themes of the 1960s: sex, politics and drugs. The key insight is in the line sung by Jagger, "No, you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need."

The point is that people confuse their needs and their wants. People think they need success, sexual pleasure, power, glory, fame, fortune and riches in order to be happy. The reality is that they want success, sexual pleasure, power, glory, fame, fortune and riches, but they don't really need them to be happy. In truth, there are basically three things that we really need for true happiness: to be saved from sin and evil, to know that we are loved by God, and to share in the eternal life of God's heavenly kingdom. All of these are gifts of grace given to us through Jesus Christ.

The great entrepreneurs in the business world know how to take advantage of people's confusion of needs and wants. The standard business model is supply and demand: if you can efficiently supply what people are demanding, you can sell a product quite profitably. For example, there is always a demand for food, so agricultural producers and food suppliers can run successful businesses by meeting the demand for what people want to eat if the price is right both for the buyer and the seller. That success can be increased exponentially if both the demand and the price can be increased while reducing production costs.

The late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple computers, was a genius at this. His remarkable business success was due to his ability to convince people that they needed his products by creating a demand for something they never previously had or even imagined. People weren't going around saying, "I really need an iPod, an iPhone or an iPad," because they had not yet even been invented. There was no demand for these products until Steve Jobs and Apple not only created these products but also created the demand on the part of millions of people who were convinced that they needed them and couldn't get by without them.

In a sense, this is the same challenge that missionaries face. The missionaries who came to North America did not find people waiting for them to bring them the Good News of the Messiah! Quite the contrary, as can be seen in the fact that so many missionaries died as martyrs. What these missionaries had to do was help people identify their deepest and truest spiritual needs, and once they had done this, then to convince them that the faith of Catholic Christianity fulfills these spiritual needs: to be saved from sin and evil, to know that we are loved by God, and to share in the eternal life of God's heavenly kingdom.

The woeful consequences of human sinfulness and the pernicious evils that exist in this world are painfully obvious to anyone who has ever lived on this planet regardless of their religious beliefs or lack of religious beliefs. The way out of the vicious trap of sin and evil comes from the mercy and forgiveness offered to all through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

When Jesus began his public ministry, St. John the Baptist proclaimed, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). To our modern ears, "Lamb of God" might sound simply like the description of a cuddly little sheep that we could hold in our arms, but in order to understand the significance of the title, "Lamb of God," we must remember that the Jewish people two thousand years ago would sacrifice animals in the temple in reparation for their sins. By calling Jesus the "Lamb of God," John was recalling how God gave Abraham a ram to sacrifice in place of his son, Isaac (Genesis 22:1-13). God sacrifices his only-begotten Son to take away the sins of the world.

Why would God do this? God gives us Jesus because he loves us. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life" (John 3:16). People long for love and often look for it in the wrong places, but we find it most completely in the unconditional love of the Holy Trinity generously shared with us by God the Father and his Son and their Holy Spirit.

Death, of course, is an inescapable reality that awaits us all, but for those who believe and live in God's grace, the end of our earthly existence merely marks our passage into an eternal realm beyond our greatest imagining, filled with the infinite love and boundless glory of being in God's everlasting presence.

May God give us this grace. Amen.