Often, the “experts” deliver their “wisdom” in the form of sound-bites or glib quotes proffered in abbreviated newscasts or trendy publications hastily heard or speedily read while doing something else – we also live in an age of “multi-tasking.” Many of us have little time to devote to serious study and reflection about our more and more complex lives. While this may be a by-product of our all too busy schedules, it may also, unfortunately, become a kind of social “absolution” from and abnegation of our God-given gifts of reason and authentic formation of conscience.
We may run the risk of becoming so busy, or so disinterested, that we willingly pass off reasonable consideration of essential human issues to others – to “caregivers” of sorts, or government programs, or any other agency that tends to offer solutions that are quick and painless.
Human life, with all its complexities and with all its beauty is a gift from God. I think we sometimes lose sight of that basic fact. A young man asked me recently why the pope doesn’t just come out and make an infallible statement about the divine authorship of life. I reminded the well-intentioned man that the pope need not make a statement about that which is already a Revealed Truth. Scripture teaches us that God made all things. He is the Creator. Years of church teaching, indeed our Blessed Lord’s own life among us, reaffirms divine authorship and sustenance of all life.
In light of the growing trend toward secularism in our society and the reliance upon “human providence” in place of the Divine, we Catholics, in particular, need to remember and, perhaps, revisit the elementary teachings of our faith before we turn over the resolution of so many of our truly human dilemmas to agencies and bureaucracies that only pay lip service to human dignity and have no care or knowledge of God’s gift set forth from the Creation in natural order and goodness. The church teaches about these things in many ways.
Sadly, or maybe very cleverly, the secular world is pilfering the language of the church and using it to lead us to a new and improved “hope” or “vision.” Sometimes, when the church speaks through her bishops (the official teachers of the Faith) concerning the affairs of this world in politics, economics, social structures, medical and bio-ethical issues, people, in general, and even Catholics, in particular, are not eager to listen.
Moreover, the response can sometimes be a move in the opposite direction of the church’s teaching with a thought that the church has “no right” inserting itself in these matters. The secular view will have us believe that the church has nothing of value to say regarding the ordinary life of human beings in their day-to-day activities.
The secularists may say the church should look to itself and clean its own house. Perhaps that view misses the fact that the church has been multitasking long before it was fashionable; for her to adopt such a narrow and self-serving position in the world would be a denial and betrayal of her identity and mission.
The church echoes the beautiful words of Psalm 33: “The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord!” Again, we remember the very words of Jesus himself as the Pharisees told him to silence the crowds chanting his praises on the first Palm Sunday: “I tell you if these were silent, the very stones themselves would shout out.” (Luke 19:40) The church provides a portal through which people may see their dignity and purpose as part of the unfolding plan of God: the natural order and beauty of life as God intends it and sustains it. From the beginning of time God has manifested his creativity and his loving plan for unity with us, his creatures.
Last week, in a letter to the bishops, Pope Benedict XVI stressed the importance of the covenant relationship that God has with humanity. His Holiness writes: In our days, when in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel, the overriding priority is to make God present in this world and to show men and women the way to God. Not just any god, but the God who spoke on Sinai; to that God whose face we recognize in a love which presses “to the end” (cf. Jn 13:1) – in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. The real problem at this moment of our history is that God is disappearing from the human horizon, and, with the dimming of the light which comes from God, humanity is losing its bearings, with increasingly evident destructive effects.
Yes, it is true that we live in hurried and complex times. The desires to find ways to “fix” our lives and make our problems “go away” are perennial challenges to humanity. The attempt to take matters into our own hands and eliminate God from the human equation has been the temptation from the beginning.
Being a Herald of Hope in this society, one needs to go beyond setting God as a foe or a divine determiner of things that he has somehow deliberately placed out of our control as a means to hinder our happiness or pleasure. God’s voice in Jesus and in his church speaks definitively and conclusively of plans that lead humanity to the fullness and the reality of life. As we ponder the mystery of what it means to rise from the dead, we do well to give serious thought about living this life in anticipation of the one to come.