Matt D’Antuono is a physics teacher in New Jersey, where he lives with his wife and seven children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in physics and philosophy, a master’s degree in special education, and is working on a master’s degree in philosophy at Holy Apostles in Cromwell, Connecticut. He returned to the Catholic Church in 2008. He is the author of A Fool’s Errand: A Brief, Informal Introduction to Philosophy for Young Catholics, The Wiseguy and the Fool and Philosophy Fridays. On YouTube you can find him at DonecRequiescat and his family at MisterD418.
We become what we love. Man, by his nature, can become many things without losing his nature as a human. It is the special ability of the mind to turn into whatever it imagines or ponders. The reason I can know a tree is that my intellect becomes, in a way, a tree.
But man is more than a mere intellect. We have hearts as well, and we love as well as know. “The life of the soul is not knowledge, it is love,” wrote Thomas Merton. We are a miraculous unity of body, heart and mind, and with that essence comes the possibility to choose, to ponder, to dwell, to yearn, and to dream. Like all of our abilities, they can be used for good or for evil.
We live in a society that has lost its knowledge of good and evil, and so we are very confused about what is right and wrong. The good for us is the perfection of our nature. We must be “fully made,” the meaning of the word perfect. We must become what we were made to be, or else wallow in madness and confusion forever.
The Psalmist warns against those who worship idols because the idols themselves cannot see, hear, move or sense. They are less than those who made them. And so, those who worship them become like them. (Psalm 135:15-18) I find this true in my own life. My computer and cellphone have many small programs running in the background and care nothing for the value of my personhood. I find that when I spend extended amounts of time using them, I become easily distracted and dulled to reality.
In commenting on Psalm 135, St. Augustine points out that while the idols drag people down to become less than themselves, depriving men of their senses and abilities, pagans turn daily to Jesus who miraculously gives sight, speech and movement to men. All other gods take life, but Jesus gives it freely. To become most fully ourselves, to become fully made, we must love the maker of who and what we are, not those things we have made. When we worship something less than ourselves, we attach a weight to our natures that drag us down to what is beneath us. When we worship Jesus, we are drawn upward to the Divine, our greatest Good.
C.S. Lewis points out in The Discarded Image that the medieval model of the universe actually posits God at the center and the earth on the outer rim. The physical model is the inverse of the spiritual. Which universe we live in is determined by our love. In his Confessions, St. Augustine wrote, “Pondus meum amor meus.” (My weight is my love.) Our love puts us in touch with a different dimension of reality, one where the center of gravity (to use Bishop Robert Barron’s phrase) is not a swirling mass of molten rock, but the Love that wrought the cosmos. As the force of gravity depends on the amount of mass, so the force of my spiritual weight, in one direction or the other, depends on the amount of my love. C.S. Lewis wrote, “We shall not be well so long as we love and admire anything more than we love God.” After all, we cannot have two masters; the center of our will cannot be occupied by more than one object.
As I write this, I am convicted about how often I find some idol sitting on the throne of my core, drawing me closer to it. More often than not, it is simply myself and my own selfish desires, a dangerous gravitational pull since all it does is shrink me down into myself, the spiritual equivalent of a black hole.
Thank God for his Grace! Since we have been given intellect and will, we have a choice. That choice should begin with begging God for his help, for his Divine Mercy. We can choose what we think about, what our mind becomes, and we can constantly turn our hearts and minds back to God.