Summary: Our witness to modern culture has an ally in the fundamental weakness of atheism.
Monday of 6th Week in Easter 2013
Gaudium et Spes
“It is through the gift of the Holy Spirit that man comes by faith to the contemplation and appreciation of the divine plan.” (GS 15) These words of the Council Fathers remind us that we are approaching the great Solemnities of Ascension and Pentecost, celebrated here on the next two Sundays. In the first weeks of Eastertide, the Church contemplates the historical reality of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, our sacramental participation in that Resurrection, and its meaning for our spiritual development. As we move through the second half of the season, we focus more intensely on His gift of the Holy Spirit–THE Gift of God–and the mission of the Church in the world. And that plan involves our witness, which in this passage is a verb, which we all recognize in the Greek because it is martyria. The passage tells us that our witness to the world will bring persecution, and sometimes even a violent death. That has been the Church’s history for two thousand years.
The Council foresaw that the problem of atheism in human society and culture was not going to fade away. Indeed, in our day it has become more aggressive and resistant to evangelization than in the sixties. In the sixties, atheism was tied up with communism, and to be an atheist was to make one suspect of treason. Now there seem to be atheists on every network and in every newsroom. We have to admit that some of this atheism is our fault. Whenever a Christian, or a believer in any religion, lies, molests, or kills, the entire faith suffers. (That, by the way, does not happen when an atheist lies, molests or kills, because, as Dostoevsky famously said, if there is no God, then anything is permitted.) But atheism has a fatal flaw. It waves a humanist banner, but it is intensely anti-human. Let me explain.
Human beings inherently have a desire for more. The human spirit–which atheists generally don’t recognize as real–is never satisfied. St. Augustine told us that our souls are made for God, and will never rest until they rest in God. The other day one of my students asked me if my watch is a Rolex®. I showed him that it’s a hundred-dollar Citizen®. He asked why I didn’t have a Rolex. I see a watch as a way to be on time, not a way to wave my wealth in the faces of others. But if one does not understand that the only way to true happiness is to set one’s path on the path God wills, then life becomes a relentless pursuit of stuff, or of pleasure, or of power, or of honor. And nothing actually satisfies unless that final object of desire is divine.
The Council Fathers taught, “it is the function of the Church, led by the Holy Spirit Who renews and purifies her ceaselessly,(17) to make God the Father and His Incarnate Son present and in a sense visible. This result is achieved chiefly by the witness of a living and mature faith, namely, one trained to see difficulties clearly and to master them. Many martyrs have given luminous witness to this faith and continue to do so. This faith needs to prove its fruitfulness by penetrating the believer's entire life, including its worldly dimensions, and by activating him toward justice and love, especially regarding the needy. What does the most reveal God's presence, however, is the brotherly charity of the faithful who are united in spirit as they work together for the faith of the Gospel(18) and who prove themselves a sign of unity.
By heeding this call, we can answer the challenge of any ideology, and lead others to happiness.