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Do We Shape Our Own World?

Last week I shared an article called “If It’s All About Me…” where I talked “me-centered” people. In that article, I included the following quote from Justice Anthony Kennedy,  “at the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” (Reilly, America on Trial, 6.  interior quote “Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. et al,. v. Casey, Governor of Pennsylvania, et a, 505 U.S. 833, 851  (1992)  https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/91-744.ZS.html.”).

I do not believe we get to determine our own concept of existence, meaning, or life. Rather, I agree with Hahn and McGinley who write, “Societies are only doomed to mutual suspicion and discord if they rule out, as just about every post-Enlightenment society has done, the possibility of a principal of social unity – a common good – outside and above itself (Scott Hann & Brandon McGinley, It is Right and Just: Why the Future of Civilization Depends on True Religion. Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing. 2020, page 167, my emphasis). We need something “outside and above” us. We need God.

To see ourselves as determining our own meaning and existence sells us short. We are greater than the sum of our parts because we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) who breathed life into us (see Genesis 2:7). To see ourselves as the center of our own world leads us down the path of pride, one of the seven deadly sins. What we need is humility (see “The Battle Against Sin”). Seeing ourselves as the center of our own world may also lead us to the sin of gluttony (if we don’t care about the needs of others, especially their need for food) and/or the sin of greed.

We are finite human beings. Our personal knowledge and worldview is limited. That means we need to be open to perspectives beyond our individual worldview. However, as we do, we need to realize that “Pluralism is not the natural state of humanity” (Hahn and McGinley, 169). There is “Truth”. It comes from God. We need to listen to God.

Hahn and McGinley speak of trying to put a pentagon into a hexagon-shape holed (67). It is the old adage “you can’t put a round peg in a square hole.” However, is that not exactly what we try to do when we determine our own meaning? Hahn and McGinley offer a better analogy for our interaction with the world with the weather (66). We might often pray for the weather to be what we want but, in reality, we know that we do not control the weather. Before we go outside, if we are wise, we check the weather and we dress accordingly.

We have free will but, as I wrote in “If It’s All About Me,” if we think it is all about me, we put ourselves in constant competition with each other. Ultimately, “We depend on God. We do not create our own reality but are part of his reality” (Hahn and McGinley, 91).

As Hahn and McGinley write, “For real, actually existing human beings, genuine freedom and humane autonomy are found not in the absence of restraint but in harmony with the divine order” (92, see also my video presentation, Where Do We Go for Truth?). In my video presentation, Are They Rules or a Way of Life, I discuss how the commandments God gives us are not just rules to appease him. The commandments provide a way of life that is good for us.

There are people who want to cast off the way of life given to us by God and found in the Bible because they believe there is no one truth. They desire complete freedom and autonomy. What they fail to realize is the when you cast off the “old truths,” whether we realize it or not, new “truths” take their place (see Hahn and McGinley, 93). We have to believe in something. It should be God because God is real and He loves us. Jesus loves us so much that He is willing to lay down his life for us (see John 15:13).

For many, it seems one of the “new truths” is the “cult of success.” People make “prestige and wealth” their god (see Hahn and McGinley, 94). God wants us to do our best but not in a way that is prideful but for a greater good.

I see “success” not as having money or prestige in this world. This is short-lived and can be taken away. For me, success is to do the will of God. Success for me is leading others to Heaven (with the hope that I get to Heaven myself!).

No matter how hard one tries to shape their own reality, “our misapprehension of reality doesn’t change reality itself: Our treating of God as less than He is doesn’t make Him so” (Hahn and McGinley, 102). Whether one believes in God or not, God is real.

Remember that, if you wish to spend eternity in Heaven, “If Jesus Christ is not at the top of the soul’s hierarchy of goods, something or someone else will be” (Hahn and McGinley, 98). That “something or someone else” will lead you away from the Kingdom of Heaven. For eternity, you have two choices, Heaven or Hell. Choose wisely.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

2 Comments

  1. Linda says:

    Thank you for your continuing series of blogs and articles on morality and God’s Truth. I wonder if the confusion between power, authority and leadership are also tied to the relativist thinking. In Sunday’s gospel Mark notes that Jesus taught with authority but if authority is not based in God’s Truth and love is it good? I believe that power and leadership which are often used synonymously are truly not synonyms.

  2. Fr. Jeff says:

    Thank you for your comment Linda.

    While I did not use the word “relativism” in this article, relativism is exactly what we are talking about when everyone defines their worldview without regard for others and the common good.

    Power and leadership are indeed related to each other but not the same thing. With good leadership, leadership that is based on the common good and doing God’s Will, comes authority and power but it is not about the power. If power is our goal, we have missed the point of leadership.

    However, if one is a relativist, believing there is no universal truth, one needs power and authority to “get one’s way.” Why? Because if there is no universal truth, then no one is “right”. Thus, one has to have power/authority to push others to do what one wants.

    However, when, not “if”, there is a universal truth and one can show themselves to be in line with the universal truth, they earn authority as one who is wise. They can become a true leader. However, if one believes in relativism, it would seem that the only source of authority is power.

    Peace,

    Fr. Jeff

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