Summary: we need knowledge, we need truth, because without these we cannot stand firm, we cannot move forward.
Thursday of the First Week of Advent 2013
We need a strong city, with gates open to all who have faith, gates of righteousness through which we may enter, praising the Lord. To accomplish this, the most important task of life, we need to do more than stand in church saying, “Lord, Lord.” Only the ones who do the will of the Father, as Jesus and Mary did, will be able to enter the kingdom of heaven. What is the will of the Father? That we listen to the words of His Son, Jesus, and live them out. Then our house will be built on solid rock, and will withstand the wind and rain and flood. Any other foundation, whether of atheism, consumerism, materialism, or any other “ism,” is a base of sand that will withstand nothing. Let’s not forget the final words of Jesus’s prophecy, either. “Great will be the fall of that house.” That means all the way to eternal separation from God.
What is the foundation on which our house is built? It is the connection with the rock that is the presence of God in our life. That connection is the gift of faith. It’s like the rebar that is drilled deep into the granite, to which all the foundation is connected. As we considered the last time we were together here, “the trustworthy truth of God is, as the Bible makes clear, his own faithful presence throughout history, his ability to hold together times and ages, and to gather into one the scattered strands of our lives.”
Remember that the Popes are looking at the prophecy of Isaiah to the evil king Ahaz, “if you do not hold firm, you will not be established.” The connection with the words of Jesus is striking. “we need knowledge, we need truth, because without these we cannot stand firm, we cannot move forward. Faith without truth does not save, it does not provide a sure footing. It remains a beautiful story, the projection of our deep yearning for happiness, something capable of satisfying us to the extent that we are willing to deceive ourselves. Either that, or it is reduced to a lofty sentiment which brings consolation and cheer, yet remains prey to the vagaries of our spirit and the changing seasons, incapable of sustaining a steady journey through life. If such were faith, King Ahaz would be right not to stake his life and the security of his kingdom on a feeling. But precisely because of its intrinsic link to truth, faith is instead able to offer a new light, superior to the king’s calculations, for it sees further into the distance and takes into account the hand of God, who remains faithful to his covenant and his promises.”
Here the Popes allude to the important understanding that faith is supported by remembrance. And our memory is not just a memory of the past that encourages us in the present–like the Hebrews remembering their passage through the sea–it is also a memory of the promises made to Abraham, Moses, David, and especially the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a memory of our future–a future in the kingdom of God. The Popes continue: “Today more than ever, we need to be reminded of this bond between faith and truth, given the crisis of truth in our age. In contemporary culture, we often tend to consider the only real truth to be that of technology: truth is what we succeed in building and measuring by our scientific know-how, truth is what works and what makes life easier and more comfortable. Nowadays this appears as the only truth that is certain, the only truth that can be shared, the only truth that can serve as a basis for discussion or for common undertakings. Yet at the other end of the scale we are willing to allow for subjective truths of the individual, which consist in fidelity to his or her deepest convictions, yet these are truths valid only for that individual and not capable of being proposed to others in an effort to serve the common good. But Truth itself, the truth which would comprehensively explain our life as individuals and in society, is regarded with suspicion.” In other words, the culture tells us that every proposition is relative, that there is no absolute Truth, but the culture forgets that this relativistic hypothesis is proposed as absolute Truth. Faith, the divine gift, enables us to see the Truth that is Christ, and to celebrate that Truth here in our communion together.