Almost every high school student, and every college student, are taught that faith and science are incompatible. Religion, they are told, is nothing more than primitive superstition. No intelligent and sophisticated person takes the bible seriously. What about you? Do you believe that every word of the bible is inspired by God and without error? Have you studied the bible so as to understand what “inspired” and “inerrant” mean? “Inerrant” means that the Bible reveals truths deeper and more essential than historical or scientific facts. Some of those deeper questions include, for example, whether there is a God, an intelligent order to the universe. Is human life greater than physical existence? Are we nothing more than meat machines, or do we have immortal souls? Most high school and college students know the atomic table and basic calculus but cannot fathom these fundamental questions of human existence.
How and Why
Our first reading is from the book of wisdom: “The deliberations of mortals are timid, and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind.” Our “earthen shelters”—our bodies—clamor for food and entertainment, which distract our minds from penetrating the deeper mysteries of life. We rarely get below a surface understanding of life, which, in any case, a market economy and an atheist culture reduce to animal compulsions: food, sex, and violence. “Scarce do we guess the things on earth, and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty.” Mathematics, astronomy, physics, and all the natural sciences, which are relatively simple, measurable, sensible—but even these we must toil at. “But when things are in heaven,” the Holy Scripture continues, “who can search them out … except you had given wisdom?” The deepest intellectual knowledge, an integrated understanding of all reality—what we call wisdom—comes only with God’s help. The empirical sciences like math and physics can explain how things work, but only God can reveal why we are here in the first place. The how we are here is much less vital to us than the why we are here. Only God open our minds to first principles and final ends.
Pope Francis in his first encyclical, Lumen fidei, says faith is an act of the intellect superior to that of unaided human reason, because it is illuminated not merely by empirical observation, but by love. Mother Teresa, for example, aided by her faith in the Love of God, understood reality on a grander scale than those who analyze things only in terms of politics and economics. She could see the broader connections, the “mega-stories,” the deepest relationships between things and peoples. Without faith, our intellects are hamstrung. If you think our current leaders seem less intelligent than the founders of our nation, you are probably right. 250 years after Thomas Jefferson wrote that a free democracy orders itself according to the laws of nature and of nature’s God, we are trying to order our lives together without reference to God. Without the higher science of faith, we cannot understand the fundamental laws of nature and the social order. Social disorder, chaotic politics, and public violence will increase as we reject divine Wisdom.
We know how we exist (at least on a physical, molecular level), but how is not enough for the human soul. “Deaths by despair” (drug overdose, alcohol poisoning, suicide, overeating, and clinical depression) have increased dramatically in the last 20 years, especially among millennials. Time magazine reported in June that drug-related deaths among 18-34 year olds has risen 108% between 2007 and 2017 (36000 millennials died of despair in 2017). There does exist a fundamental reason which orders all existence, an ultimate purpose toward which everything moves, Jesus says, and I am He. We have all come from God, and we are returning to God. Your focus on God must be absolute if you are to make it through this life to heaven. And so “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Should my own mother mean more to me than God, I must “hate” her, that is, crucify my attachment to her. It is not my mother I hate, but my own disordered attachment to her that I hate. God alone must be my all in all. Nothing and nobody can take His place.
Today, September 8, is also the feast of the Birth of Mary, nine months after December 8, the Immaculate Conception. Her Immaculate Heart understood what the human mind, crippled by original Sin, can never understand. Her wisdom is God’s wisdom; her love is his love. Let our minds be single-hearted like hers, the Immaculate Heart, letting nothing and no one come between us and God.