The Danger of Forgetfulness
Dear Friends in Christ,
We continue to move forward in these trying times. It is not easy and the path is not smooth but with God’s continued grace and blessings we keep moving forward. Recently someone came to me, concerned with everything that is going on right now, and sincerely inquired if the world has ever seen anything like this before. I assured them that the world has seen all of this before! Recently in our readings for weekday Mass we read from the Book of Ecclesiastes, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl 1.9). Our main problem isn’t the novelty of a particular virus, or our current state of government and politics, it isn’t racism, immigration policy, economic inequality or even world affairs, technology and science. Our problem is forgetfulness, hubris and pride. All of the aforementioned are indeed problems, but none of those in the first list constitute our main problem. Our problems are not Trump or Biden, Democrat or Republican, socialist or capitalist, rich or poor, black or white, Asian or Hispanic, conservative or liberal. Our problem is a human problem and it is as old as the human race.
The Sacred Scriptures again and again expose our problem. The Catholic Church for 2000 years has tried to live and teach a way of living to help overcome the problem that we face as human beings. Sadly, too often scriptures go unheeded and believers themselves fail to live in the truth. Increasingly, those who claim to be Christians reject both formally and in practice the fundamental truth of our existence. What is that fundamental truth that hubris and pride make us forget that causes all of our other problems and so much needless suffering and pain, fear and anxiety, dread and despair? Perhaps the psalmist says it best, “Know that the Lord is God. He made us and we belong to Him. We are His people, the sheep of His flock.” (Ps 100.3)
The fundamental lie, where pride and hubris take us, is thinking that we are the center of everything. The fundamental lie is in thinking that we can make choices according to our will and whim and that because it is our desire, that alone makes it right and good. The fundamental lie is thinking that we are gods and the world should act accordingly (Gn 3.5). Pride and hubris, original sin, lead us to forget the glorious and fundamental truth, God is God and God alone. Shema Israel! Hear O Israel! The Lord is God. The Lord alone! (Dt 6.4) When we remember and live in the truth that God is God and we are not, we are no longer slaves to delusional thinking, we are free. When we remember and live in the truth that we belong to God and not to ourselves, we live in the security that He is always there to care for us “as the sheep of His flock”. Fear, anxiety, dread and despair for ourselves and those dear to us dissipate in the light of truth. Unfortunately, the problems of humanity grow and spread in the darkness of deceit, pride and sin.
Last Sunday on the Feast of St. Francis, Pope Francis issued a new encyclical letter, Fratelli Tutti (All Are Brothers). This is the third of his pontificate and the second written by him. The first encyclical, Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith), was written by Pope Benedict but published under the pontificate of Francis. At the heart of this very long letter (43,000 words!), that covers a wide array of topics, is the message of the common bond of our humanity. We cannot be brothers and sisters without God as Our Father. Pope Francis appeals in this letter that we not forget that we are children of the Heavenly Father and not orphans all on our own. Forgetfulness is a dangerous thing. Pope Francis writes:
There is a growing loss of the sense of history, which leads to even further breakup. A kind of “deconstructionism”, whereby human freedom claims to create everything starting from zero, is making headway in today’s culture. The one thing it leaves in its wake is the drive to limitless consumption and expressions of empty individualism. Concern about this led me to offer the young some advice. “If someone tells young people to ignore their history, to reject the experiences of their elders, to look down on the past and to look forward to a future that he himself holds out, doesn’t it then become easy to draw them along so that they only do what he tells them? He needs the young to be shallow, uprooted and distrustful, so that they can trust only in his promises and act according to his plans. That is how various ideologies operate: they destroy (or deconstruct) all differences so that they can reign unopposed. To do so, however, they need young people who have no use for history, who spurn the spiritual and human riches inherited from past generations, and are ignorant of everything that came before them”.
These are the new forms of cultural colonization. Let us not forget that “peoples that abandon their tradition and, either from a craze to mimic others or to foment violence, or from unpardonable negligence or apathy, allow others to rob their very soul, end up losing not only their spiritual identity but also their moral consistency and, in the end, their intellectual, economic and political independence”. One effective way to weaken historical consciousness, critical thinking, the struggle for justice and the processes of integration is to empty great words of their meaning or to manipulate them. Nowadays, what do certain words like democracy, freedom, justice or unity really mean? They have been bent and shaped to serve as tools for domination, as meaningless tags that can be used to justify any action.
Timely words, lest we forget.
In pace Christi,