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Creed of Love

Reflections on the Apostles' Creed

Author(s): Billy Swan

ISBN13: 9781853909771

ISBN10: 1853909777

Publisher: Veritas

Extent: 128 pages

Binding: Paperback

Size: 20.6 x 14 x 1.6 cm

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  • Exploring the gift of faith, this work examines, among other issues, the importance of the Apostles Creed to out lives today, the connection between the Church and faith in postmodern society and the questions asked by believers in the wake of the abuse scandals within the Church.
  • Billy Swan

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    Creed of Love is an exploration of the gift of faith and examines among other issues the importance of the Apostles Creed to our lives today, the connection between the Church and faith in a post-modern society and the questions asked by believers in the wake of scandals within the church. Through a series of thought-provoking reflections Billy Swan offers us a positive vision of faith and a positive outlook for the Church of the future. This book would be useful for personal reflection and for teachers teaching the rudiments of the Catholic faith.

    - Catholic Ireland.Net

    The issue of faith and the position of the Catholic Church have been rocked not just by development in society but by scandals in the church. This makes it all the more important to re-establish faith according to Swan, a priest from the diocese of Ferns which has been rocked by scandal more than most. In a series of reflections on the Apostles Creed, he offers a positive vision of faith and outlook for the church today.

    - Books Ireland, Summer 2006

  • Chapter One: Where to begin: God loved us first

    Before we come to look at the Apostles Creed let us remind ourselves of what exactly gives birth to faith in God. We need to reflect on what inspires it, namely a human persons experience of the love of God. We continue to bear in mind that faith is a response to an initiative of God to reveal himself to individuals and communities. Therefore it seems like a good idea to build these reflections of faith on the solid foundation of Gods revealed love for humanity. This love is like a glorious light that shines through everything we believe in and hold to be true and beautiful including all the teachings, doctrines, creeds, spirituality, sacraments and preaching of the Church. They are all part: of the great drama that is the love story between God and his people.

    Our Search for God
    One of the most sacred human experiences we can have is that of falling in love with another human being. People have described it as finding in the other the one they had been searching for all their lives. Friends may look on and describe a couple as being made for each other. Their love consumes their minds in a way that they can think of nothing else but the other. Two lovers thinking about each other; two lovers .wanting each other; here is a good starting point for our reflection on the truth that we were made for God and that he invites us to be madly in love with him as he is with us.

    Deep inside each of us is a desire to question, to search and to wonder. We can speak of our search for God because of the way we find our human nature. There is a deep longing, a hunger and a restlessness that is part of who we are. It is a hunger that has been in the heart of humanity since the very beginning for He has put eternity into mans mind (Ecclesiastes 3:11). The psalms appeal to us because they express beautifully what we experience to be true, O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting. My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water (Psalm 62).

    We hunger for beauty, love, intimacy, the truth. Indeed all human activity is related to our search, wittingly or unwittingly, for total truth and total happiness that can only be found in God. Our searching is only a response to an initiative that comes from elsewhere; we would not be seeking God unless he was seeking us first. He wants us to find him for his delight is to be with us always. In the depths of our being he is drawing us to seek him more persistently as life goes on. It is a search that has a happy ending. Our desires have an achievable goal, namely that of total union with God who is the fullness of beauty, of love, of intimacy and truth. As Jesus promises us, No one who drinks the water that I shall give will ever be thirsty again: the water that I shall give will become a spring of water within, welling up for eternal life (John 4:14). It is like God has created us in such a way as to draw us to himself. St Augustine put it well when he described his own search for God that had taken him on many paths: You have made us for yourself O God and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee! (1)


    O Lord, teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to me as I seek, because I can neither seek you if you do not teach me how, nor find you unless you reveal yourself. Let me seek you in desiring you; let me desire you in seeking you; let me find you in loving you; let me love you in finding you. (2)

    Gods Search for us
    In the Book of Genesis, the story is told of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and how they disobeyed the command of God by eating the fruit of the tree. We are told that once they realised their sin they felt shame before each other, fled the scene and hid in the long grass. The story then tells us something very interesting about Gods approach. He does not threaten or destroy but rather he pursued humanity in the cool of the day (cf. Gen. 3:8), asking the question, Where are you?

    Having found them he offered them another chance to share his divine love. This initiative of God was a sign of things to come throughout the Old Testament and continued in the New Testament with Jesus. The Bible recalls many stories from the history of our Jewish ancestors and the history of the Christian community we call the Church. There is a constant theme running throughout: that of Gods love for his people and his saving presence in their history. It is a love story that is marked by intimacy, love, betrayal, separation, reconciliation and forgiveness.

    In the New Testament, the love of God for his people is revealed in a new and deeper way. In the Old Testament, God searched for his people but now through his Son Jesus he showed us how far he was prepared to go in order to find them and be with them. Jesus gathers people into a family and includes those who previously were excluded. He is the Good Shepherd who pursues the lost sheep even to the remotest places and who does not rest until he has safely returned it to the flock (cf. Luke 15). At the Eucharist, we recall the nature of Gods mercy that never gives up on us, Even when we disobeyed you and lost your friendship you did not abandon us to the power of death but helped all people to seek and to find you (Eucharistic Prayer IV).

    As he was dying on the cross, Jesus uttered the words I thirst (John 19:28). His thirst was a severe physical thirst because of dehydration and loss of blood but his words also have a deeper spiritual meaning in terms of Gods thirst for us. He thirsts for us to live the fullness of life that he came to offer and so be living witnesses to the glory of God. He thirsts for our recognition and our affection. At the side of a well near Galilee, Jesus addressed us through the Samaritan woman when he said Give me something to drink (John 4:7). What a question! With these words, Jesus shows how he had taken the form of a slave (cf. Philippians 2:7) and asks for our love like someone hungry asks for bread. Before he died, Jesus prays Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am (John 17:24). These words reveal a man and a God who longs for the company of those he loves so dearly. And so we see that we thirst for God but that God also thirsts for us.

    It is a beautiful thought to think of God as our lover. Just like a lover, he wants to be with us, he wants our attention, wants to listen to us and to hear our voice. St Paul tells us that No eye has seen nor ear heard, things beyond the mind of humans, has God prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9). Such a statement gives us a tiny insight into the wonder of who we are as Gods children. The human love we share between us is but a glimpse of Gods love but is never equal to it. God promises us that the best is yet to come.


    Father, I abandon myself into your hands, do with me what you will.
    Whatever you may do, I thank you: I am ready for all, I accept all.
    Let only your will be done in me and in all your creatures.
    I wish no more than this, O Lord.
    Into your hands, I commend my soul;
    I offer it to you with all the love of my heart;
    For I love you, Lord,
    And so need to give myself:
    To surrender myself into your hands without reserve
    and with boundless confidence:
    For you are my Father. (3)

    God is Love
    There was a time when the prospect of listening to a homily on the topic of Gods unconditional love would not have particularly excited me. For me and others at that time it was not what was needed. What was required in our view was more of a get tough attitude that included a well worked-out strategy aimed at getting people back to the Church and their faith. Looking back at this time in my life, I approach God with a deep sense of humility and repentance for my flawed vision of how things should be. Sure, I believed that God loved me but it was a dry and academic belief. I believed with my head but the message had yet to sink in to my heart. I had yet to make the connection between my belief in the love of God and how the evidence of it filled my day. I could not see what Thomas Merton saw as the gate of heaven being everywhere. This brings us back to the basic question of just where do we begin in this process of sharing the Good News with everyone and growing together in faith. What is our starting point?

    When looking for the answer to this question, we are grateful to St John for pointing us in the right direction. Writing a letter to a community of early Christians, John brings them back to basics and reminds them about what the Christian faith is all about. God loved us first (1 John 4:10) is a simple statement but it means that ever before the human race existed, the love of God was always there. Before we were old enough to do or say anything, Gods love smiled on us. The Good News is news of the truth that the gift of Gods love is offered to us freely at every moment of every day. He is our creator whose spirit fills our life and is ever present to us. The birth of faith that is genuine and sincere comes as a response to the experience of love that is an experience of God. It is as if the love of God that shines on us brings out the same love that is within, as with a mother and child: After a mother has smiled for a long time at her child, the child will begin to smile back; she has awakened love in its heart, and in awakening love in its heart, she awakens recognition as well. In the same way, God explains himself before us as love. Love radiates from God and instils the light of love in our hearts." (4)

    Let us take a look at the example of St Paul who was a great missioner for Christ. As a witness and preacher of Gods love, he was successful in his preaching with the birth and foundation of many Christian communities. As we know, St Paul used to be a persecutor of the Church who co-operated in the death of many Christians including St Stephen, the first martyr (cf. Acts 7:58). Following his conversion on the way to Damascus (cf. Acts 9: Iff), we are told that Paul understandably had some trouble being accepted by some of the Churches because of his reputation as a persecutor of the Church. Paul was aware of this but never denied his dark and controversial past. Instead he pointed to himself as the best witness to the mercy and love of God because he had been the greatest sinner (cf. Acts 9:26). He is open and frank about his past and how mercy was shown him: I used to be a blasphemer and a persecutor and contemptuous. Mercy however was shown me (1 Timothy 1:13). From then on, Paul could not be kept silent about the mercy of the Lord that he had experienced first hand, even being glad in suffering humiliation as a consequence. He was a first-hand witness to the love of God that is prepared to go to great lengths to offer itself to those most in need of it. Wherever he travelled Paul met with audiences who were well versed in philosophy and theology, people who were more educated than he was. Not only that but he carried the Christian message to cultures of paganism and to people who had never even heard of God. For Paul, his starting point was not a cleverly worked-out argument or strategy. For him, all he preached was Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). The secret of his success lay in the fact that the Lord stood by me and gave me power so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed (2 Timothy 4: 17). Paul delighted in sharing the news about Gods love and how it had become a real experience in his life. In fact he was so moved by the love of Jesus that he could say, Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:8). The God of Paul was not an abstraction or a distant, uncaring and impersonal power. Would he have been happy to suffer beatings and torture as he did for a god like this? Who would? Paul endured his suffering because he had finally found the pearl of great value (Matthew 13:46), the one thing needful (Luke 10:42). Because of it, he was anxious for nothing (Matthew 6:25-34). For Paul, God is love (1 John 4:8) was the point of it all, was the centre, was everything. As St Teresa of Avila wrote about him: It seems he [Paul] could do no other than speak about Jesus continually because he had Jesus so engraved and printed upon his heart." Pauls preaching generated excitement in himself and in those around him. He burned with zeal to communicate this message of Gods love and truth that was fully revealed to humanity when Jesus gave his life for us on the cross. His success as a preacher depended far more on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit than on his own skills or ability. He could not keep the Good News to himself but felt impelled to tell everyone about Jesus crucified and risen.

    The fruits of Pauls labours were the birth of faith and the spread of the Church. Those who came to believe in Jesus did so as a response to the Word of God that Paul was sharing. It was a spoken word and a lived word, spoken by those who lived the message they shared. Today, as we find ourselves in challenging times, we would do well to learn from St Paul and build upon the rock of Gods revealed love for the world and for every human person. Love inspires faith and a real experience
    of God compels us to share it with others and to express that love concretely in lives of service. It is not by accident that the Creed comes after the homily in the order of Mass. Sharing the Good News of Gods love in the homily based on the Gospel or the readings is followed by us standing with hearts renewed and faith nourished, responding with our whole being to what we have just heard with the words I believe. . ..


    O Lord my God, I do not want only to hear about your love. I want to know it! Like St Paul, may your love and truth burn in my heart so that I may help spread .faith in you as he did. Amen.

    1 Confessions, Book 1,1; 10,27.
    2 St Anselm of Canterbury. From The Proslogion of St Anselm,
    Chapter 1
    3 Charles de Foucauld, Prayer of Abandonment.
    4 Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Love Alone is Credible, San
    Ignatius Press. 2005. Chapter 5.
    5 St Teresa of Avila, The Collected Works of St Teresa of Avila,
    Vol. 1, Washington DC: ICS Publications, 1987, Chapter 22.

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Creed of Love