Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I Want What I Want - Now!

For Paul, even for those living in the most morally decadent and amnesiac society:

the truth is accessible to them, but they do not want it, because they refuse the demands the truth would make on them… Man resists the truth that would demand a submission expressed in giving glory and thanks to God (Rom 1:21). For Paul, the moral decadence of society is nothing more than the logical consequence and the faithful reflection of this radical perversion. When man prefers his own egoism, his pride, and his convenience to the demands made on him by the truth, the only possible outcome is an upside-down existence. Adoration is due to God alone, but what is adored is no longer God; images, outward appearances, and current opinion have dominion over man.
Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, pp. 94-5.

Reflection – This is a continuation of the essay which I began commenting on previously, in which Ratzinger writes of St. Paul’s assessment of pagan society in Romans 1. It’s a pretty bleak picture, isn’t it? One we might not want very much to consider. Surely we’re not that bad, are we?
Well, I leave that for God to sort out. Speaking personally, if not confessionally, I know that self-will runs deep in the human heart. There is something profound in us (in me, certainly, alas) that wants what it wants when it wants it how it wants it. There is at least an urge in my own heart, my own soul, to order everything else around that – God included. Truth included.
The choice to worship God is a choice, fundamentally, to accept that the world does not revolve around my ego. The choice to believe, to accept, to embrace the fact that the world emanates from God and is ordered towards Him—the famous exitus-reditus movement that Catholic theology has held for over a millennium—this faith puts my ego in its proper place.
It is important to note that for St. Paul and Ratzinger, moral perversion, the violation of the right order of human relations, whether it be same-sex unions (cf Rom 1:27) or whatever other brand of disordered desire, flows from this central refusal to acknowledge God as God. When I decide that the most important thing in the whole wide world is for me to get what I want, for me to scratch whatever is itching, well then anything goes, right?
But this choice of anything goes is a desperate one. God is lost in this – we cannot have it both ways. The most important thing possible in my life is that I do just as I please… and there’s a God in heaven who is the source, center, and goal of my life. Which is it? Because to assert both is a flat logical contradiction.
Deep choices are at stake in these matters. But as we ponder this choice, and these stakes, we must assert that this God who is our All in All is also our merciful Father who loves every creature He made. We have to trust that his grace, if we allow it, is sufficient to overcome the dreadful force of our ego, and the dreadful bondage of our self-will. This, too, is a key element of Christian hope.

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