O'Connor, BernadetteBy Dr. Bernadette E. O’Connor ’61 IWHS ’66 BA, professor emerita of philosophy

As the good Valjean of “Les Misérables” lies dying, he sings the hauntingly sublime truth: “to love another person is to see the face of God.” As he expires, those present, joined by the whole company, reprise the anthem “Do You Hear the People Sing?” The words the lyricist Herbert Kretzmer gives Valjean and those who struggled against social injustice call us to reflect, around March 25, Incarnate Word Day, on two profound implications of the truth we access by the gift of faith, the truth that the eternal Word of God took on our human flesh and lived among us as one of us. The first implication is that, in the Incarnation, God validates the goodness of our humanity and elevates it to share in the divine nature. Thus nothing is a better icon of the God whom we cannot see than human persons. When we love another we are given a privileged access to his or her luminous personal depths and thereby, in virtue of God’s identifying God’s self with human nature, to the very face of God. Incarnational theology assures us that God is truly in our loves, our families, our friends and colleagues. The second implication concerns those countless human beings across town and around the globe whom we cannot know intimately. They share in the same dignity of human nature that we do and, because of their personhood, have a claim on our respect and solidarity. The song the revolutionaries hear is “the music of the people who will not be slaves again.” We are challenged by the Incarnation to stand – in our economic, civic, and political lives – with those who are in anyway outcast, repressed, or enslaved and to strive to build an earthly city – even as we anticipate the heavenly one – truly worthy of human dignity.