For those who have been reading these essays, a fear or worry might be developing. If things are ‘going south’ in the world as I have been writing about, where is the good news of the Gospel?
It is a good point, and I would like this reflection to act as a corrective to a perhaps misleading impression that some readers may have gotten.
Firstly, I cannot falsify my judgement that we are in difficult times and that we are headed, as a culture, in the wrong direction. Just look at the news and see that everything is in question now. God’s Revelation and Commandments that are meant to help steer us are not being heeded or even acknowledged.
Basics are being taken away by our selfishness: air, water, temperature, peaceful security. We have the means to destroy the entire earth in the space of an hour, and the buttons that could do that are in the possession of men of inferior character.
There has throughout history always been a sense that things have gone wrong in this world. That is the heart of the story of the Fall in Genesis. But even after much reflection on what the end-times of the earth would be, there has developed a widespread pessimism. Even today, when we see representations of the future in media, they are dystopian; that is, filled with pessimism and fear.
But, into the world of ours during the Roman Peace 2,000 years ago, a great and magnificent Revelation occurred: The Incarnation of God. Emmanuel: God with us. Choosing our feebleness and weakness, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity became a human being and took upon His shoulders the sin and the guilt of the world. Redemption. Freedom. Good News.
This is the reason why the saints, even faced with difficulties and the threat of death, had a spirit of joy within them. In every fiber of their being they knew that the victory had been won, that Christ was risen, and that every suffering and difficulty on this earth would be transfigured by the love of Christ. This primal security instilled in the saints (and in those of us who by penance seek the pathways of sanctity) a kind of peace that the world cannot give. The world can only bestow thrills and momentary pleasure that come and go and are very much based on circumstances which shift like the sands of the seashore.
The saints have their foundations set not on the ephemeral and the changeable but on the firm foundation of Christ, and His calling, and His love, that is not circumstantial but a given in faith.
It is so hard for those in the world to understand this. They judge believers as being sad and depressing complainers. They believe that people turn to God to make up some basic human, psychological deficit. All believers, they think, are just needy people who depend on religion to keep their lives on track. I am sure there are some that may fit this description, but the truly religious person is far beyond these human needs and is involved with complex spiritual and supernatural realities that give a person of faith deep and powerful resources that the world knows nothing of.
This is what I mean when I speak of the firm foundation of a believer’s world view. There is an inner consistency and direction in his or her life that causes all things, all experiences in this world, to cohere and be filled with meaning. Absurdity (which is the end result of the search for meaning without God as the Existentialists rightly predict) is a foreign conception to the believer.
When an atheist asks of the theist why they can go on in this life so joyfully, the believer cannot give a scientific proof of their faith in God since science requires measurement and analysis which is beyond possibility when dealing with the immaterial realities of the soul. But as St. John Henry Cardinal Newman reflected in his works: it is the fact that so many individual searches end up pointing to the reality of God, giving the believer a certainty in his or her faith which is beyond the instruments of measurement of the scientist.
All the signs, unprovable in themselves, point in the same direction. For the believer in God, this more than proves the reliability of faith and the direction of life that all the Scriptures and the Teaching of the Church point to.
Contrary to the negative views of non-believers, people of faith, because of this firm foundation, are actually better equipped to deal with the struggles and challenges of life than someone who thinks life is just a set of chemical processes, without meaning or coherence.
Faith is the strongest and firmest foundation for life.