Sunday, September 14, 2014

On Prideful, Utopian Thought

(Continued from September 13
The Church believes that we can change. She teachs that all sacraments, but most importantly the Eucharist, can and do change our lives. This belief in the power of the Eucharist is manifest in Thomas Merton, the great twentieth-century Catholic mystic: “the grace of the Eucharist is not confined to the moments of thanksgiving after Mass and communion, but reaches out into our whole day and into all the affairs of our life, in order to sanctify and transform them in Christ.” Change, conversion through the Eucharist does not happen overnight. But the Church believes at her core that Her sacramental life, over time, leads us towards holiness, the call of Vatican II.

At the same time, we as Catholics scrap the idea that as a society we will ever arrive at a Morean utopia. To cite only one example, Jesus said: “you always will have the poor with you” (Mark 14:7). Pope Paul VI, about whom I wrote my book, stated in his 1971 encyclical Octogesima Adveniens, that “the appeal to a utopia is often a convenient excuse for those who wish to escape from concrete tasks in order to take refuge in an imaginary world.” America may progress technologically, medically, and scientifically, and, individually, we may (or may not) choose to make progress through the sacraments; however, this growth will never convert into heaven on earth.

The Catholic Church, in contrast to the secular position discussed above about secular law, has taught from the beginning that Church doctrines are tied to God’s revelation of Himself, not cultural norms, though She has been cautious about constructing too many official statements about God (how can one say anything final about He-Who-Transcends-Our-Finite-Intellectual-Capacities?) God is: eternal (Psalm 90:2), omnipotent (Matthew 19:26), omniscient (I John 3:20), omnipresent (Psalm 139:7), and, most importantly for our contemporaries to understand, immutable (Malachi 3:6). Although beyond human intellectual abilities, God has not remained far distant from his creation, as asserted the Enlightenment Deists. Reasonably, God has reveals Himself to his creatures. Dei Verbum, one of the most important documents from Vatican II, has listed the many ways that God has revealed himself to us and how this revelation has been communicated down through the centuries: through the created world, the prophets, the Apostles, bishops, sacred Tradition, sacred Scripture, the magisterium, and Christ Himself. Pridefully we oten make the mistake of pretending to really know God's stane on cultural matters merely from our own finite intellects, a temptation which Adam and Eve first succumbed to.... (To be continued).