Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Beginning of Wisdom

Today I would like to reflect with you on a fundamental question: What is faith? Does faith still make sense in a world in which science and technology have unfolded horizons unthinkable until a short time ago? What does believing mean today? In fact, in our time we need a renewed education in the faith that includes, of course, knowledge of its truths and of the history of salvation, but that is born above all from a true encounter with God in Jesus Christ, from loving him, from trusting him, so that the whole of our life becomes involved.

Today, together with so many signs of goodness, a certain spiritual desert is also developing around us. At times we get a sort of feeling, from certain events we have news of every day, that the world is not moving towards the building of a more brotherly and peaceful community; the very ideas of progress and well being have shadows too. Despite the greatness of scientific discoveries and technological triumphs, human beings today do not seem to have become truly any freer or more human; so many forms of exploitation, manipulation, violence, abuse and injustice endure.... A certain kind of culture, moreover, has taught people to move solely within the horizon of things, of the feasible, to believe only in what they can see and touch with their own hands.

Yet the number of those who feel bewildered is also growing, and searching to go beyond a merely horizontal view of reality they are prepared to believe in everything and nothing.

In this context certain fundamental questions re-emerge that are far weightier than they seem at first sight. What is life’s meaning? Is there a future for humanity, for us and for the generations to come? In which direction should we orient our free decisions for a good and successful outcome in life? What awaits us beyond the threshold of death?

General Audience, 24 October 2012

Reflection – First, I have to confess to a certain dark humour at Pope Benedict’s deliberate (I believe) mildness of expression at times. ‘We get a sort of feeling… that the world is not moving towards a more brotherly and peaceful community.’ No, it certainly does not seem to be doing quite that, Holy Father! As Syria continues to  blow up, Egypt riots, rockets rain on Israel, China and its neighbours rattle sabres over territorial claims, and prospects of economic ruination fill the airwaves in North America, that peaceful community of man is increasingly elusive today.

So… faith. All our cleverness and technological mastery does not seem to be yielding wisdom. And this is a very real problem, a very real challenge. To know how to do stuff, to be able to manipulate matter so that it is wholly pliable to our designs does not seem to move us one millimetre in the direction of knowing what we should do, what is the good we are to achieve.

It may well be that the failure of our technological culture to confer wisdom upon us may be the very thing that opens the door of faith for us human beings again. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the Scriptures tell us. This fear of the Lord has its own beginning in the core conviction, the core realization of one simple thing: God is God, and I am not God. The sharp brutal encounter with one’s own limitations, one’s own incapacity, one’s own utter failure to solve the mystery of existence, to find a peaceful and sustainable way of life—this may be what drives us poor post-moderns to our knees to seek God with renewed humility.

So when we look around at the world and see its many many problems, perhaps we can see in the midst of the real sufferings and horrors of our time a work of God’s mercy in them all. There is much failure in the world today—so many things are crumbling, and the future is so very uncertain for us all. Advent—our faith in the coming of God into the world—bids us to be not afraid, stand erect, hold our heads high, and look for the deliverance of God, the saving power of God in the world and in our lives.


  1. Thank you very much for this reflection Fr Denis. Blessed Advent and Christmas to you and all at MH!

    1. You too, Jo-Ann! Hope you're keeping well. We're in full Guadalupe mode here...


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