WE do not see because we have eyes. We see because there is light. Where there is no light, the eyes sees nothing, even when fully open.
The eyes of the world are fully open today, so to speak. We are piercing the mysteries of the cosmos, the secret of the atom, and the keys to creation. The cumulative knowledge of human history can be accessed by the mere click of a mouse, or a virtual world erected in the blink of an eye.
And yet, never have we been so blind. Modern man no longer understands why he lives, why he exists, and where he is going. Taught to believe that he is no more than a randomly evolved particle and product of chance, his only hope lies in what he achieves, mainly, through science and technology. Whatever instrument he can devise to take away pain, extend life, and now, end it, is the ultimate goal. There is no reason to exist other than manipulating the present moment to whatever maximizes the most feelings of satisfaction or pleasure.
It has taken humanity nearly 400 years to arrive at this hour, which began in the 16th century with the birth of the “Enlightenment” period. In reality, it was the “Darkening” era. For God, faith, and religion would slowly be eclipsed by a false hope of redemption through science, reason, and the material.
In seeking the deepest roots of the struggle between the “culture of life” and the “culture of death”… We have to go to the heart of the tragedy being experienced by modern man: the eclipse of the sense of God and of man… [that] inevitably leads to a practical materialism, which breeds individualism, utilitarianism and hedonism. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Evangelium Vitae, n.21, 23
But we are far more than molecules.
Science can contribute greatly to making the world and mankind more human. Yet it can also destroy mankind and the world unless it is steered by forces that lie outside it. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter, Spe Salvi, n. 25
The “forces that lie outside it” are, for one, the truth of our inherent dignity—that every man, woman, and child is created in the image of God, though fallen in nature. Other forces include the natural law from which moral absolutes spring, and which in themselves, point to a greater Source beyond ourselves—namely, Jesus Christ, who took our flesh and became man, revealing himself as the mender of our fallen human nature and brokenness.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. (John 1:9)
It is this Light which man so desperately needs… and which Satan, working patiently through the centuries, has almost completely eclipsed in most parts of the world. He has done so by fomenting a “new and abstract religion”, says Pope Benedict Light of the World, A Conversation with Peter Seewald, p. 52 — a world in which “God and moral values, the difference between good and evil, remain in darkness.”Easter Vigil Homily, April 7th, 2012
And yet, the human condition is one where we know that we are fundamentally unhappy on some level (whether we admit it or not), even when we buy all the material comfort, medicine, and ease that we can afford. Something in the heart remains tortured and uncertain. There is a universal longing for liberation—freedom from the guilt, sadness, depression, torment, and restlessness that we feel. Yes, even as the high priests of this new abstract religion tell us that such feelings are merely social conditioning or religious intolerance; and that those who impose notions of “right” and “wrong” are simply trying to control us; and that we are actually free to determine are own reality… we know better. All the clothes, lack of clothes, wigs, makeup, tattoos, drugs, porn, alcohol, wealth and fame cannot change that.
…an abstract, negative religion is being made into a tyrannical standard that everyone must follow. That is then seemingly freedom—for the sole reason that it is liberation from the previous situation. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Light of the World, A Conversation with Peter Seewald, p. 52
In reality, it is enslaving and draining hope from this generation: suicide rates in the West are skyrocketing. “US suicide rate soars to 30-year high in growing epidemic across America”, cf. theguardian.com; huffingtonpost.com
But like a bolt of lightning into this present darkness, St. Paul says in today’s first Mass reading (see liturgical texts here):
Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.(James 1:1)
This is antithetical to everything the world is seeking today, namely comfort and the eradication of all suffering. But in two sentences, Paul has revealed the key to becoming whole: self-knowledge.
Our trials, says Paul, should be considered “all joy” because they reveal a truth about ourselves: the reality that I am weak, tepid, and sinful, despite the mask I wear and the false image I project. Trials reveal my limitations and expose my self-love. There is, in fact, a liberating joy to look into the mirror or into the eyes of another and say, “It is true, I am fallen. I am not the man (or woman) I should be.” The truth will set you free, and the first truth is who I am, and who I’m not.
But this is just the beginning. Self-knowledge only reveals who I am, not necessarily who I can become. So-called New Age masters, self-help gurus, and spiritual guides have tried to solve the latter question with many false answers:
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. (2 Tim 4:3-4)
The key of self-knowledge is only useful if inserted into the Divine Door, who is Jesus Christ. He is the only One who can lead you to the freedom you were created for. “I am the way, the truth and the life,” He said:John 14:6
I am the way, that is, the way of love. You were made for communion with your God and with one another.
I am the truth, that is, the light that reveals your sinful nature and who you are meant to become.
I am the life, that is, the One who can heal this broken communion and restore this wounded image.
Thus, says today’s Psalm:
It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes. (119:71)
Whenever a trial, temptation, or affliction comes your way, it is permitted to teach you to surrender to the Father through Jesus Christ. Embrace these limitations, bringing them into the light (in the Sacrament of Confession), and in humility, ask forgiveness from those whom you have wounded. Jesus didn’t come to pat you on the back and encourage your dysfunction, but to reveal both your true condition and your true potential. Suffering does this… the Cross is the only path to a resurrection of your true self.
So, the next time you feel the burning humiliation of your weakness and need for God, consider it all joy. It means you are loved. It means that you can see.
“My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges”… At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it. (Heb 12:5-11)
The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light… Christ… fully reveals man to man himself and brings to light his most high calling… By suffering for us, He not only gave us an example so that we might follow in His footsteps, but he also opened up a way. If we follow this path, life and death are made holy and acquire a new meaning. —SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Gaudium et spes, n. 22
In the cross lies Love’s victory… In it, finally, lies the full truth about man, man’s true stature, his wretchedness and his grandeur, his worth and the price paid for him. —Cardinal Karol Wojtyla (ST. JOHN PAUL II) from Sign of Contradiction, 1979
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