8 August 2010

Fides et Ratio

Readings for 19th Sunday, Year C

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” These are the words of the great Doctor of the Church, St Thomas Aquinas. On the face of it we may conclude that if you don’t have faith, then you will never understand what it is that Catholics believe. Or you might conclude that it is only to those whom the Lord has given the gift of faith that salvation is possible suggesting that Catholics are the lucky ones and everyone else is condemned. This is simply not true.

Faith is a gift, a wonderful gift, which comes from the Creator of all humanity. I can think of no reason why God would not give a person this enlightening gift. Rather it is a little like we are given a birthday gift which relies upon batteries. How often have we found ourselves searching through draws and boxes on Christmas morning looking for batteries for the children? Perhaps in an age which relies so heavily upon battery operated items this is now less a problem, but I digress. The gift of faith, which we have all been given, relies upon the batteries of reason to get it going.

Pope John Paul II, in his mind-blowing encyclical letter, Fides et Ratio says: Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth. This brings to mind an image of the human spirit like some graceful butterfly, full of colour and wonder and beauty soaring toward heaven and coming ever closer to being with Jesus. As though heaven were some distant plane upon which we know we shall find the most treasured and striking of flowers upon which to land, toward a light that gives warmth, love and comfort. Surely this is something we all seek in an age of ugliness amid the harsh reality of our lives. It’s not a daydream, however, but rather it is our destiny.

Oscar Wilde, I think it was, said that scepticism is the beginning of faith. He talks, one suspects, of the need for reason in matters of faith. Faith may well be blind, but we need the clear sight of reason to bring that faith into its full light and beauty. If faith is gift, then we might say reason is natural to us. We all, regardless of our faith, have an innate desire to know the truth. Those, however, who have found the batteries can get the toy going and see creation in all its wonder. Pity those who have batteries, but no toy to play with!

Perhaps the greatest of all scientist, a man of outstanding reason you might say, Albert Einstein, said once: There are only two ways to live . . . one is as though nothing is a miracle . . . the other is as if everything is. So today we have that choice of how we are to live our lives. Do we believe, or do we not.

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