Daily Thought For March 15, 2019

Everyone's Gone To The Moon 

The man of today looks toward the future. His slogan is “Progress”, not “Tradition”; “Hope”, not “Faith”. He is moved, it is true, by a certain romanticism about the past. He delights in surrounding himself with precious things of history, but all of this serves only to confirm that these times are past and that the empire of the man of today is tomorrow, the world he himself is going to build. For that to which he looks forward is not, as in the early Church, the kingdom of God, but the kingdom of man, not the return of the Son of Man, but the final victory of a rational, free, and brotherly order among men who have discovered themselves. The development through which we are living presents itself, not as a gift from on high, but as the product of hard work, of planned, calculated, and inventive activity. Thus, for the man of today hope no longer means looking for things over which we have no control, but action by our own power. Man expects redemption to come from himself, and he seems to be in a position to provide it. In this way the primacy of the future is linked with the primacy of practice, the primacy of human activity above all other attitudes. Theology, too, is becoming more and more invaded by this attitude. “Orthopractice” takes the place of orthodoxy, and “eschatopractice” becomes more important than eschatology. If in former days it was left to popular enlightenment to tell the peasants that chemical fertilizers were more efficacious than prayer, now—a decent interval having elapsed—we can read the same sort of thing in modern “religious” literature that is straining to be “with it”. There, too, we may find it argued that in certain circumstances prayer will have to be “remodeled”: it can scarcely any longer be regarded as an invocation of divine assistance, but must be regarded as recollection serving the practice of self-help. Belief in progress—often said to be dead—is taking on a new lease of life, and the optimism that preaches that man will at last really be able to build the city of man is finding a fresh following.
     The city of man, to many the symbol of all they desire, inspires in others only feelings of melancholy. For as hope arises, so does fear begin to spread. The anxiety that seemed to have been exorcized in the optimistic immediate postwar years once more awakes. When the first man set foot on the moon, no one was able to avoid feeling pride and joy and enthusiasm over man’s colossal achievement. The event was felt, not as a victory over a nation, but as a victory for mankind. But this moment of joy had its mixture of sadness, for no one could escape the thought that this same man, who is capable of such marvelous things, is unable to prevent millions of men dying of hunger every year, has to allow millions to live without human dignity, is unable to put a stop to war or to stem the rising tide of crime. The road to the moon is easier to find than the road to man himself. Technical “know-how” is not necessarily human “know-how”. Quite obviously knowledge of how to deal with himself lies on a totally different plane from technical accomplishment.
     We want to follow this line of thought farther. Technology creates new opportunities for humanity. This cannot be disputed. A Christian has no grounds for any kind of resentment of technology. Anyone who grew up in the pre-technical age is unlikely to be tempted to fall for the romanticism of nature. He knows how hard things were in those days, how much inhumanity there could be in the nontechnical world; he knows just how many things have become better and more beautiful and more human now. But this same technical skill which offers such opportunities to humanity offers also fresh opportunities to the one who is anti-humane. There is no need to speak of the ultimate horrors of atomic weapons and of biological and chemical warfare, although the store of terror they imply always lurks somewhere in our minds. We need only take a look at the “city of man”. Ever-increased planning means ever more regimentation of men. The eruptions that shatter our modern society are no doubt an unconscious rebellion against the complete planning of our existence, which creates a sense of suffocation, against which man wants to defend himself and finds that he cannot. Planning creates dependence and hence an impotence of the individual such as has never been known before. In addition we detect the ominous effects of our own activities: air, water, the earth—the very elements by which we live are threatened with destruction by the poisonous breath of our techniques; the energies upon which we depend seem, by their by-products, to be turning into the forces of our eventual annihilation. The city of man is beginning to strike terror into our hearts—it could become the tombstone of humanity.
     It would be far too simple to take out the sledgehammer of the theologian at this point and say: let us, then, be saved from technology, not by technology; let us find hope through faith and not against faith. Such a God would resemble all too closely the deus ex machina of Greek tragedy, who in Euripides had already become a joke at the expense of the gods and of faith. Euripides seems to be saying: The world is in such a state that only the sudden appearance of God can set it in order; but such a God exists only in our theaters. And so with Euripides, tragedy becomes more tragic than ever, for there is no way out, it seems, for reality remains without God and out of joint. The Christian God came, not as a deus ex machina to set everything externally in order, but as the Son of Man in order interiorly (emphasis mine) to share in the passion of mankind. And this, too, is precisely the task of the Christian: to share in the passion of mankind from within, to extend the sphere of human being so that it will find room for the presence of God.

Benedict XVI. (2009). Faith and the Future (pp. 92–97). San Francisco: Ignatius Press. (This book was a series of radio broadcasts from the Bavarian Rundfunk and Vatican Radio from 1969-1970. It ends with a timely prophecy I have shared in the past about the future of the Church. Cardinal Ratzinger's forecast for the future of the Church was spot on but ends with a very hopeful prediction saying, "And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already with Gobel, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death." I find this incredibly hopeful and encouraging. I believe the key to maintaining a joyful disposition amidst the challenges all around us is a deeper conversion to Christ and the grace of Baptism in the Holy Spirit. When people discover the grace of God and salvation as a gift, a radical change begins to take place within them. They become most concerned with their own ability to shine the light of Christ through their words and actions. The gift of faith is to be shared in love for God and others. This is the basic message of this book and the truth about evangelization. Many wish for a "magic wand" from God to set everything in its proper order. But God always respects our free will and invites us to cooperate with His plan of salvation. This "yes" of faith leads one into an amazing adventure with all kinds of twists and turns. But through it all, the faithfulness and love of God is experienced in profound ways — even in the midst of hardships and suffering! I hope you have found this to be true in your own life no matter what challenges you are currently experiencing.)

Benedict XVI. (2009). Faith and the Future (p. 118). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.)

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