Monday, October 21, 2013
Response to Relativism: 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time
I would like to read you the rest of the section from 2 Timothy that we didn’t hear in our second reading. It is one of my favorite passages in the Bible and describes succinctly our mission as evangelists:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Does this not sound like it was written for us? “…people will not endure sound teaching…they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings…”
We live in a culture that embraces relativism. This philosophy says that if something is true for me it is true. If something is true for you it is true. Even if they contradict, individuals determine truth.
At one level this is okay. For instance, Fr. Rich and I used to play tug-of-war with the remote at breakfast. I like watching ESPN while I eat my cereal and Coke as I am able to catch the top ten plays. It is true that I like ESPN. Fr. Rich, as a news junkie, hates ESPN and would rather turn on the news. It is true that he likes the news. (We have resolved our differences by agreeing that the presider of Mass gets the remote). Subjective, or individual truths, can admit of contradictions because they are simply personal preference or opinions.
Yet there are other truths that do not allow for contradictions. We call these universal or objective truths that are despite an individual’s opinion. For example, 1 + 1 = 2. This is true, not because we all agree it is true, but because it is. It is true independent of whether I agree with this statement or not. It is true regardless of what a two or three year old might think.
There are many objective realities in our faith. The most basic claim is that God exists. This statement is either true or false and does not depend on my personal belief or understanding. Spoiler alert—God does exist. And it’s not like He vanishes from existence if an atheist believes He doesn’t.
There is a clear theme in our readings about the virtue of perseverance. The first reading is a cool story of when the Israelites fought the Amalekites. When Moses kept his arms up, the Israelites kicked butt. When they dropped the enemy had the upper hand. Recognizing this, his buddies Aaron and Hur prop up his arms to help Moses endure. (By the way, how would you like to be a guy named Hur?) St. Paul encourages Timothy to be steadfast in the faith and to endure suffering. And in the parable of Jesus the widow wins over the unrighteous judge by her persistence.
Our job as Catholics is to be steadfast in the truth. We do this by learning about our faith and by diving into why we believe what we do. We approach hot button issues by reading beyond headlines to what the Church proclaims. In so doing, we can trust that our Church doesn’t make things up as she goes along, but simply passes on truths that already exist.
While being steadfast in the truth involves knowledge of beliefs, moral teachings and more, we must remember that the Truth is not a list to adhere to, but a Person—Jesus Christ. He is the “…way, the truth and the life” and if we walk with him and his Church we will be persistent in living truth in our lives.