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BY Mark Shea
Hopelessness assaults us from all sides. When a culture no
longer looks to the eternal God, it starts looking to this passing world — and
So we fret about demographic winter amid the barrenness of a
contraceptive culture facing its doom both economically and socially (as the
Muslims happily attest).
The stock market goes through convulsions, the debt balloons
and an expanding bulge of baby boomers starts to burden its
allowed-to-not-be-aborted children with the enormous task of providing for them
in their impending geezerdom.
Not a few are starting to get the bright idea that it would
be a lot cheaper to just murder those aging boomers (mercifully, of course).
Elsewhere, those who trust in the “spirit of democratic
capitalism” rather than the Holy Spirit look blankly at the horrors it produces
in promiscuity — sexual promiscuity and consumerist promiscuity.
As background noise to all this, our entertainment
cheerleads for sleaze at every turn, our political candidates offer us a choice
between more abortion or more war, our educational system is filled with a
horror of God but a zeal for sex in various forms, and a growing number of our
chattering classes gaze out upon this landscape of nihlism, shrug, and wonder
what’s for lunch.
So what does Benedict have to say to this culture for which
all the answers seem to be “Steal whatever pleasure you can without
commitment,” “Kill somebody” or “Buy stuff”?
He says something simple and yet revolutionary:
“It is not the elemental spirits of the universe, the laws
of matter, which ultimately govern the world and mankind, but a personal God
governs the stars, that is, the universe; it is not the laws of matter and of
evolution that have the final say, but reason, will, love — a Person. And if we
know this Person and he knows us, then truly the inexorable power of material
elements no longer has the last word; we are not slaves of the universe and of
its laws, we are free.” (Spe Salvi 5)
Imagine it! To be really free! To not be tied down to the lie
that life is nothing but work, buy, consume, die! To look out upon a universe
that is full, not merely of meaning, not merely of reason or of will, but even
a universe that is full of the love of a personal God!
To not be bound to the notion that those lucky enough to be
able to afford a sandwich have achieved the summit of all human hopes. To be
able to speak to our children and give them a vision of heroic hope and not
lose them to the bondage of empty hedonism!
To see ourselves, not as unusually clever pieces of meat
that happened to bounce out of the cosmic crap shoot, but as beloved sons and
daughters of God.
To see even our suffering as tragic but united to Christ
rather than as an idiotic contortion on the face of time, space, matter and
To be free of our own disordered appetites that keep us fat,
dumb and unhappy! To be free to have families and friendships of mutual
self-giving in the love and fruitfulness of God! To be free of the fear of
All this is offered in the Gospel Benedict preaches to our
It’s all available to us: if we will only let go our
hopelessness and embrace Christ our Hope.
Mark Shea is senior content editor