[Faith] is not a system of semi-knowledge, but an existential decision – it is life in terms of the future that God grants us, even beyond the frontier of death. This is that attitude and orientation that gives life its weights and measures, its ordinances, and its very freedom. Certainly a life lived by faith resembles more an expedition up a mountain than a quiet evening spent reading in front of the fire; but anyone who embarks upon this expedition knows and feels more and more, that the adventure to which it invites us is well worthwhile.” Faith and the Future, p. 50.
Reflection: Ratzinger here summons us to the adventure of life, to a journey towards our true future.
The question of ‘the future’ is a key one today. So many ideologies that governed the course of world events in the 20th century were essentially eschatological, that is, future-oriented. Marxism anticipated a workers’ paradise, and was willing to smash everything and everyone to get there. Nazism heralded the glorious Third Reich when the Master Race could order all things in beauty and peace… once all the inferior races were cleared out of the way, especially the Jews.
Scientism promises an end to suffering… if we just let them experiment on and vivisect us in whatever way they please. Environmentalism, meanwhile, holds out a grim specter of eschatological doom, a sort of Judgment Green Day when all our carbon sins will come home to roost. We must repent before it is too late, in sackcloth, if not in nasty carbon-producing ashes. Again, if only we can abort and contracept enough people, environmental doom can be forestalled.
Human eschatology always seems to involve human sacrifice.
Ratzinger surveys all of these throughout his writings and holds out the Christian alternative. There is a glorious future held out for humanity; there are great deeds to be done, obstacles to be surmounted, works to be achieved. But this future is held in the heart and hands of God, not in human endeavor alone. The human efforts to secure the eshcaton end in horror, bloodshed, tyranny. Placing our hands in God’s hands, and allowing Him to guide us to the future of man allows us all the joy, excitement, expectation and greatness of spirit that we yearn for in these ideologies, while grounding all of this in truth, love, and a deep respect for the human person.
The weights and measure of life given by faith are just that: that each person is included or at least invited into this glorious future, that it is seen in the love and tenderness of God, in Christ, for every single human being, and that our own path to this glorious future is precisely this path of love, service, mercy, in imitation of Christ.