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  • Writer's pictureImmersed in Christ

The Central Problem for Faith Today

Friday, November 17, 2023

by Fr. David M. Knight

View readings for Friday, 32st Week of Ordinary Time:

Lectionary no. 495 (Wis 13: 1-9; Ps 19: 2-3, 4-5; Lk 17: 26- 37)

Wisdom 13:1-9 is an incredibly precise text philosophically, and an inspiringly beautiful one poetically. It speaks of how people, even without God’s special revelation, can and should experience God as the indwelling “greatness and beauty of created things.” From “studying the works” of God, humans can “discern the artisan.”

Some did come close. They were not so insistently narrow and short-sighted, like the agnostics of “relativism” today, that they confined their intellects within the arbitrary boundaries of “scientific knowledge.” But seeing “fire, or wind, or the... circuit of the stars... out of joy in their beauty they thought them gods.” As the Responsorial (Psalm 19) says, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God.” They just didn’t realize that the source of being itself must be, not just on a higher level than created beings (“gods”), but Being beyond contingency itself: Being that has in itself the cause of its existence; Being that cannot not be—the unique One who eventually gave his Name as “I AM WHO AM.” Admiring the unified complexity, the artistry, the beauty of created things, they did not “know how far more excellent is the Lord than these.”

Predating the Aristotelian-Thomistic “analogy of being,” Wisdom says:

Let them realize from these things how much more powerful is he who made them. For from the greatness and beauty of created things, their author, by analogy, is seen.

Today’s worshipers of Vulcan, god of technology, can be so intrigued by the discovery of how things work that they never ask what things are (“physics” that doesn’t pass to “metaphysics”). They are “distracted by what they see, because the things seen are fair.” That is understandable. But Wisdom asks, “If they succeeded in knowledge far enough to speculate about the world, how did they not more quickly find its Lord?”

Pope Benedict XVI identified “relativism” as the “central problem for faith today” because it constitutes a “resignation before the immensity of the truth.” It is a “self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically verifiable.” The modern rejection of rational philosophy, Benedict says, has led us to accept in practice two principles: First, nothing is intellectually certain except what is established scientifically. Second: “the only kind of certainty that can be considered scientific is that resulting from the interplay of mathematical and empirical elements.” As a result “the human sciences, such as history, psychology, sociology and philosophy [must] attempt to conform themselves to this canon of scientificity.” Anything that does not conform is declared anathema and sent to the stake as heretically unscientific or reduced to the ranks of unproven, uncertain opinion. That is relativism. (See “Relativism: The Central Problem for Faith Today,” Guadalajara, 1996).

Jesus says in Luke 17:26-37 that people were distracted like this in the days of Noah and Lot: They “ate and drank, bought and sold, built and planted.” And “when the flood came,” or “fire and brimstone rained down,” it “destroyed them all.” Be grateful for the dimension of life and being you experience in Communion.

Action: Be aware that Communion is the experience of Infinite Being.

Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry

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