Saturday, January 21, 2012

Something Bigger

All the more we are forced to face up to whether the question of God does not simply surpass the boundaries of human ability so that to this extent agnosticism would be the only correct attitude for men and women: in keeping with the nature of being honest, in deed in the profoundest sense of the ‘pious’ – the recognition of where vision ends, respect for what has not been disclosed to us. Ought it perhaps to be the new piety of human thinking to leave what cannot be investigated and be content with what we are given?
To Look on Christ, 16
Reflection – The above describes perfectly what is apparently a growing attitude, especially among young people today. I recently read a statistic that some large number (30%?) of young adults have simply decided to ignore questions of meaning, God, the deeper purpose of life and the universe.
As Ratzinger goes on to discuss in the passage (and indeed it is one of his common themes), this attitude only seems to be modest, humble, and unassuming.
The truth is, we cannot adopt a neutral stance towards the deep questions of life. These questions are not simply matters of esoteric knowledge or trivial information. I can live my life very well knowing nothing about string theory; whether or not Accra is the capital of Ghana is also irrelevant to my daily decisions.
But the underlying structure of all reality? The question as to whether or not human life is going anywhere? Is there a God who made us for a reason, and to whom we will have to give an account of ourselves? These questions are not irrelevant. They cannot be ducked.
If I say that ‘I am not going to worry my silly head about these things – I’m not smart enough, and anyway, who cares?’ what I am really saying is ‘There is no significant meaning or purpose, there is no God, the world and my life is not going anywhere, really.
Mind you, I am not talking here about people who genuinely anguish with doubts and questions, who do not know, really, what to believe, but who struggle to hold on to the truths they know. What Ratzinger and I are describing is an attitude of indifference, a kind of metaphysical despair which just plunges the individual into pleasure seeking, worldly pursuits, transient sensations and trivia.
This is not a neutral attitude. In fact, this attitude always throws the person holding it more and more into egoism, into living life tightly constrained by my own lights, likes, thoughts and attitudes. Because there is no larger meaning calling me out of myself, I inevitably collapse into myself and whatever I want and choose.
We are always being summoned to something bigger than ourselves. Christianity identifies this ‘bigger’ with the God who made the universe who became man in Jesus Christ to lead us to heaven. This I believe with all my heart. Others believe differently, but those who suspend the questions, who decide to dismiss the whole matter from their heads—these people are well on the way to barbarism, to living a life without any depth, without anything existing outside themselves and their small circle of self-chosen concerns that matters to them. And this is, sadly, more and more the situation we are confronting in our post-modern world. Let us confront it with the good news and hope we hold in Christ.


  1. Father Dennis
    First thank so much for daily writing here. I do not read everyday, but often enough.
    Please don't despair... Even metaphysically...
    I do not know the pope's thought as you do. In fact, what little I do know I've learned right here and mostly from you....
    But it occurred to me as I was reading... These young people... Maybe for now their love and hope is focused on the impersonal aspects of God. God is surely there...

  2. Sorry to be slow responding (busy busy). Oh, I'm not the one despairing - it's these poor young people. Mind you, your point is well taken. I suspect that it's always been the way of youth to be focused on the here and now somewhat (noteable exceptions like Therese of Lisieux aside). I think the problem now is the breakdown of social cohesion - it used to be that young people would be modified by the older ones and the presence of the Church, so that even as they ran around doing this and that, there was a natural 'gravity' pulling them towards serious considerations, and of course as they aged, this became a natural movement. Now, we are all so fragmented from one another, and youth is so much in its own 'young' world... it is a difficulty!


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