Man in the World
Part Eight of Ten
The Duty of Man
Those who have witnessed the deaths of their own children through disease, violence or war, know the value of life. Those who have been free and who have lost it know the value of freedom. They understand that only through adherence to the natural moral law and the divine law can man live in harmony with man within the community, the city, state and nation.
When man has been placed in such a beautiful world, with its mountains, trees, fields and seas, when blue skies and green grass and flowers bloom, it is a disgrace that brother accuses brother, sister fights with sister, nations rise up against one another and grab and plunder and fall into the mad abyss of war.
Each of us has his or her own story that could be told, truly important experiences that reveal what it means to be alive, what it means to be a human being in this world. The reason literature, drama and some entertainments have such great attraction for so many is how they reflect the inner experience we share in this life. We all have been given an opportunity to love and to serve. What we choose to do with that opportunity becomes the story of our life.
It is time for us to remember what we have forgotten! When we look across the space between us, do we see that the one with us is a reflection of our own being, that we share this wonderful human experience and nature?
Yes, we have forgotten so many things! We must turn onto the road that leads us to become who we were meant to be, to honor God and love and serve all. If man chooses to continue to forget, to flee from goodness and rush headlong into the mouth of evil, man will truly be swallowed up in a horror of his own making. Death will confront him and swallow man like an irresistible whirlpool that sucks all down into the depths.1
Man has a great power, the power of his will that initiates all his voluntary acts. But whatever man sincerely wills to be is not a half-hearted affair. It is a resolve, an almost undeniable force propelling man through life. When he wills with all his being that peace be upon all men and that he find a better way, God's way, he would do what is necessary to find that peace and that way. He will humble himself and sacrifice anything he possesses to find the true way of life:
But proud man is not interested in peace, and he does not sincerely seek true life. He does not have the slightest understanding of the value of God's grace. He rejects that which is most valuable in order to live a self-satisfied life losing himself in his achievements, acquisitions and entertainments while knowingly disregarding the suffering of those around him.
Proud man does not look far ahead. He has no prudence and does not understand that the apparent stability he has attained in society or the government he relies upon may suddenly collapse and disappear, as it has done in the case of all nations of the world at some point in history.
When large portions of society ignore the law, societal chaos is born, requiring greater security measures and stricter enforcement of ever-more oppressive law to re-establish order. In the effort to re-establish order, security may be achieved, but freedoms once allowed in a moral society are lost. Martial law is implemented.
The self-satisfaction and insensitivity of proud man is the cause of so much unnecessary suffering and evil, and it is pride that keeps man ignorant of the wisdom that leads to life. It is pride that encourages man not to care! Evil can also arise out of knowledge known and willfully disregarded, due to that same stubborn pride.
Even those who have found the way can go astray (2 Samuel 11-12; Judges 13-16), but there are some who remain faithful till the end. Saint Stephen, who was martyred for his faith, refused to deny the dear Lord, yet the inspiration of his faith and loyalty to God affects us even today (Acts 6-7). The Apostles later demonstrated great dedication in also remaining true to the Lord Jesus.
We are called to discover the truth and to share the truth without reservation. We are called to hear the wisdom of our wiser sisters and brothers to open our eyes and become aware of the glorious Truth. That Truth is the foundation for the ethics of life that establish the culture of life in society. In sharing that truth, we plant seeds that may grow and protect life in the years to come. That is the mission.
St Giuseppe Moscati of Naples, Italy, physician to the poor, said:
"Love truth; show yourself as you are, without pretence, without fears and cares. And if the truth means your persecution, accept it; if it means your torment, bear it. And if for the truth's sake you should sacrifice yourself and your life, be strong in your sacrifice."2
If we remain steadfast in our love for God and man, if we have His grace in us, if our hearts melt with gratitude for all He has done, we cannot help but do His will in this world. We will trust and love the One who is ever faithful and experience the amazing ways of the Beloved.
We will not be confused by, nor will we accept, the secular bioethics3 that establish the culture of death. The way forward will be clear. The "complex nature" of the ethical problems confronting us will not throw us off course. We will care, we will serve, and we will be faithful to man and to God.
Whether we work in a hospital, school, nursing home, hospice, clinic or other offices, whether we work anywhere in society, we have an opportunity to serve others with reverence for life to live a blessed life. We may influence others to embrace the way of life and truly care for our patients. We may and must establish pro-life healthcare services and facilities, safe havens for the vulnerable.4
We need to understand that erring on the side of caution and prudence in many fields of human activity will prevent so much harm. Scientific, medical and technological advancement are wonderful tools to benefit mankind when, and only when, governed by the divine and the natural moral law. St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila) wrote:
"O Lord! All our trouble comes to us from not having our eyes fixed upon Thee. If we only looked at the way along which we are walking, we should soon arrive; but we stumble and fall a thousand times and stray from the way because, as I say, we do not set our eyes on the true Way."5 [emphasis added]
It is only when we look lovingly to our Beloved Friend that our way is clear, our choices and actions truly right, and a spirit of justice, mercy and faithfulness live within our hearts. Authentic health care reform occurs when each of us is inspired and guided to act in accordance with the ethics of life.
As oil is poured into oil without the slightest disturbance, His shining grace silently rains down upon our hearts, overflowing with love for all those we serve, the community of man. When our love in return reaches out to Him in an uninterrupted stream of remembrance, devotion and prayer, His Spirit speaks to our mind and heart, clearly telling us what we need to know.
He tells us whether it is right to do or not to do, and what to do, all the while strengthening our perception and understanding of the divine and of the natural moral law. This is the essence of religion resulting in the fulfillment of the two highest commandments: to love God with all we are, and to love all here on Earth as our self.
Though we will then be pierced by the pain of looking upon and truly seeing the terrible suffering of man, when we embrace those who share this journey in life, we know a joy, a true fraternal love that overwhelms us and brings a bit of heaven into this world (Matthew 13:44). With this love filling our hearts, we comfort by caring, not by medically murdering.
We understand that for thousands of years, each generation of proud man thinks itself better than any generation before it much more "modern" and scientific than any other. It tries to solve the problems of this world but only succeeds in changing the conditions under which man lives.
Success for proud man entails what he can gather, accumulate, or display so that others think him great. He loses himself in entertainments and drinks and drugs himself in one way or another so that his emptiness no longer touches him. Nothing touches him, and at the end, thirsty for living water, he is lost, lost in a "desert" of "wind and sand" of his own making (Hosea 8:7).
We see that calling for "action" by others to solve the problems in the world, reporting to the government, fighting to overthrow a government or changing the form of economy, banning dangerous items or activities, making laws or issuing decrees and proclamations, electing one political party over another, all of these ... never solve the problem of man: himself.
The law clearly forbids man to commit many crimes, and we can also outlaw weapons, but until man is taught the divine and the natural moral law and lives according to them, proud man will only find another way to commit all sorts of horrific crimes. When proud man raises children, he poisons their mind and hearts with entertainments that glorify criminal activity and the mindless killing of the innocent.
We can see that as proud man and his children become more and more lawless, as he chooses not to teach his children to follow the divine and the natural moral law, as well as not allowing others to teach them the divine and the natural moral law, the need for more laws only increases. So long as man continues to ignore Him, senseless crime and violence continue.
Rebelling and fighting never change the world; they only change the circumstances in the world. The needed change must occur within each one of us. We look in the mirror, and who do we see? What do we see? Understanding that we exist here as man in the world, standing right now before God, are we ashamed? Or do we rest within His loving grace?
Do we strive with all our heart, mind and soul to follow the way of life He has shown? Confronted with the terrible suffering in this world, do we choose to serve with love and relieve a small portion of that suffering? Am I, are you, doing even one small thing to serve another in need, today?
Man, solely through his own efforts, has never solved the problem of man: himself. Technological and scientific change or human law cannot make man live a moral life, nor can it change man's nature, but accepting the grace of our Lord can! The technologically advanced man may be morally primitive, while the technologically primitive man may be morally right in how he lives.
What technology does for man is simply change the environment man lives in, enabling him to do so many things, but it does not alter the need for man to have food, clothing, shelter, and the companionship of others. Completely remove the technological advancements through an electrical outage or some other complete long-term failure of the delivery of goods and services, and the "evolved," "advanced" man of today will revert quickly to the most primitive and violent creature he has always been, just underneath the surface.
The selfishness and cruelty of man toward man has never left him, and it peeks out regularly without fail. In some places and times it never leaves. There is a part of man that is excited when contemplating or engaging in violent encounters in battle for a "just cause" or simply because of the heightened sense of danger involved. The pervasive glorification of violence in literature, video-games, and entertainments reflects this thirst for conflict, as if part of man desires to be engaged in, or finds meaning in, battles for the sake of others, even if it means killing another in the process.
It could be said that this is a quality of men, as contrasted with women. However, women naturally want the man in their life to be strong, capable, and able to defend them in an actual violent confrontation should a threat arise. Should an army ready itself to attack a nation, state or city, the women, whether supposedly "feminist" or not, will demand that the men be sent to the front to fight the invaders and to protect the women and the children.
That women generally do not thrill at the idea of personally engaging in violent battle for a "just cause," does not mean that women do not deeply desire what is bought at the price of battle or war. Both women and men may encourage fighting and war to secure or defend their own lives, their land, wealth, and power, or to seek revenge, sending thousands or even millions to their death!
Both men and women are capable of terrible cruelty toward others as both have an animal as well as a rational nature. More individuals are enslaved today than ever before, more are forced into prostitution than ever before, and more people killed in war than ever before. Tragically, man living with violence or war on a daily basis directly knows the cruelty of man and could tell us an unending story of abuses and hardship.
Remove the technological supports and man will remember what it means to fear, for that is what lies underneath his frantic quest to control everything around him. Take away the established order in society and man will fear for his life! Take away his freedom and he will fear! However, the man of faith, a child of God, does not look to man he looks to please his Beloved Lord. In pleasing his Beloved, he learns how to live in this world, how to work, and how to never give up.
When he needs to be strong in character, he is the most reliable, like Joshua. When he needs to keep going when everything is going wrong, he is the most persevering like Ruth. When he needs to wait, he is the most patient, like Job. When he needs to trust, he trusts completely, like Abraham. He lives a blessed life, knowing ever greater bliss and peace. He leaves his fear behind him through that faith, through his trust in God.
In the beginning, middle and end of such a man's secret journey, he finds a joy that fills him. The wise in any society, of any time, find a way to leave man's universal fear behind them and to live in harmony with the natural moral law, the divine law and God as they may know him. The wise find a peace that is steady, knowing the dear Lord is with us through it all. They comfort those in need and give of what little or much they have.
In the face of terrible suffering, the wise individual knows that words may inspire and guide, but without action in the world, these accomplish little. He knows that what the people need is real assistance if actual benefit can be given (Genesis 41). What the people need is for us to be with them, as a loving presence, so they know they are not alone. Reaching across space from being to being, from each one of us to the one before us, the ones we are to love, God's love unites us and ushers us into the blessed community He has intended for us all along.
Remembering that which He would have us remember, we choose, will and do loving those who are before us, with us, to serve. We choose to honor, cherish, and love our husbands and wives and remain faithful to our covenant of marriage founded in love. We raise our children to know God and His divine and natural moral law, showing them the way that is to be walked. They, growing into young men and women, enter life and journey forward with all it involves, and respect life and the God who has given it.
We, and our children, living together in the blessed community, praise the dear splendorous Lord and thank Him for the unending goodness He has given to us, this beautiful Creation, this life, and His very Self. There is nothing more man in the world could ever need or require! This is the way to renew reverence for life in society and healthcare. This is the real solution to the evils of this world! Oh man! Remember what you have been born to do!
In sacrificial love, serving our brothers and sisters living in the world, we must practice reverence for life and go on giving of ourselves till only His love remains. We will often never know what the fruit of our own choices will be, as these fruits may mature after we are long gone. But we must do what we can, wherever we may be, while we are able. We know what we must do.
Man may have great knowledge and even express his faith eloquently, but if that faith does not spill over into compassionate action in some way, it is not true faith. The blessed apostle James wrote:
When man possesses faith, he cannot help but demonstrate it through his actions. If he has true faith, he will possess fortitude and be merciful. If he has true faith he will act temperately and justly.
If he is a fireman, policeman or soldier defending his country, he will risk his life to protect and save others. If he is a physician, nurse, or emergency responder, he will do the difficult and treat as well as comfort those who are suffering. If a teacher, he will help others understand. He will brave the cold to protect the innocent, feed the hungry, promote the healing of the sick, and visit the lonely.
If man is mother or father, he will wake up each day and care for his family and work hard to do what is needed. Through everything he does, the man of faith will help others as he can. If he truly has faith, he will adore God beyond any other! His faith will influence every choice he makes, all that he wills to do, and everything he actually does do in his life.
Each of us has been given unique gifts and none of us is exactly the same. We are all here in this same world, but we walk a path in some way different from any other, a unique life that our circumstances, choices, will and actions combine to create for us. But, no matter how different it may seem, we are all "cut from the same cloth" and face similar challenges each day. We all share the same human nature, and therefore are subject to the same natural moral law.
We are designed by the same Designer, made in the same image, and meant to reflect Him in what we do in this life. We honor those who do live this way, because when man lives as God intends him to live, when he follows the divine and the natural moral law, man lives as the best he can possibly be. Man's greatness is revealed when he is humble and true, when he lives according to God's will.
When man is merciful and kind, just and faithful, he evokes admiration and love, because his acts reflect what a man should be. Man can become what we need man to be, what God has already enabled him to be, should he only choose to, will to, and actually be as he is meant to be.
There is no confusion when we adore God and listen to His voice whispering in our minds and touching our hearts! Remember what the dear Lord proclaims to the world: Justice! Mercy! Faithfulness! Compassion! Love! Truth! This is the eternal way of righteousness, the way of life He showed us, the way we are to follow as man in this world.
Throughout the spectrum of life, in any condition, we care for those who seek our assistance. In a culture of life, every step taken in healthcare is a stairway of life, caring all the way through from the actual biological beginning of life till a truly natural death occurs in His timing.
Though we fail and fail again, we must get up again and again, as many times as needed and return to the way He has called us to follow. When we look out at our brothers and sisters in need, we put self-interest aside and simply love (1 John 3:16-24). There is no confusion. These principles are the ethics of life that, through our merciful actions in the world, establish the culture of life.
Lost and Found
Man is like a small fish that has mistakenly jumped out of the waters onto dry land. Flopping here and there, he may land in a puddle and think he has found all that he has been seeking only to be let down again and again. By grace, someone helps him to jump back into the sea that gave him life and eventually returns to his true home where he finds indescribable joy and fulfillment.6
There are rare times when we may glimpse the great fish of the sea, which are seen by those sailors who venture far out into the deep waters. The great fish sometimes are seen swimming just beneath the surface and occasionally, they jump, leaping high up into the air, displaying the glory of their strength, their shining beauty glistening in the sun, their magnificence given to them by God their Creator. Any who see them are humbled and in awe and wonder.
The great fish show themselves for just a time and then dive deep back into the quiet depths of the sea in which they live. The great fish are like the saints sent by God to show man the way and then they go back to Him. When man follows them, he dives deep within as well and finds an inner stillness he knows that God is (Psalm 46:10).
Again, man is like the hungry infant who helplessly cries out, flailing his arms and legs angrily. He never stops crying till his mother comes to him, and he drinks in the life-giving milk from his mother's breast. For throughout his life, man seeks a richer and more fulfilling life which arises out of love.
Just as the loving mother is ever alert to the needs of her child, it is God who watches and is ever-ready to give man what he needs. "... As surely as the sun rises, He will appear .... (Hosea 6:3)." He will come and save man when he calls out sincerely through prayer. For this reason, He is called Yeshua, Jesus, which means God saves. God provides that which man has sought all along and brings it to him all man has to do is accept and drink what the dear Lord has to give (John 4:1-26).
Man is like the lost sheep. The shepherd knows that sheep is separated from the flock, before it realizes it is all alone and in great danger. The Good Shepherd sets out and searches till He finds that lost one and rejoicing, brings him back from certain death (Luke 15:3-7).
No matter what man does, no matter what he thinks is right, he can never find the way to his true home without help, without grace. He can never find the right way to live if he continues to assert himself and insist on doing things his way. In the world, he can never find the right way to serve if he insists on serving his way.
Truly, until man is found, having opened himself to God, he cannot serve those in need with the wisdom, love and kindness that they need. Having missed the target, like an arrow blown to the side by a strong wind, proud man continues on his way, thinking he is doing right, yet ends in hurting others and himself. He carefully reasons based upon his limited understanding and concludes that the divine and the natural moral law have no meaning, or he misinterprets them.
Proud man says that some of us are not real persons, even though they are human beings, and therefore, it is conveniently "ok" to kill them! Yet, the reality is that the term, person in "human nature ... signifies this flesh, these bones, and this soul ...."7 We can see that every human being is necessarily a "person," deserving of respect, care and love.
Nevertheless, proud man, blinding himself to the truth, preferring not to see what is obvious, concludes that many persons are not persons, that compassion is killing and killing is good, that this counterfeit compassion is a dignified "choice." This is how those who embrace the culture of death go so far astray.
Even more, proud man declares non-human animals as "persons" while simultaneously denying "personhood" to the preborn, very young children, drug addicts and alcoholics, the cognitively impaired, and many other categories of human beings!8 Granting legal "personhood" status to the great apes, elephants, whales, and dolphins, or even computers with advanced artificial intelligence, is being proposed as a way to protect them. Yet, those who promote the culture of death care more about these than they care for vulnerable humans.
However intelligent the behavior these animals or computers may demonstrate, it is certain that once they are granted "personhood" status, more humans will be treated like animals. Why? The line between man and animals or machines will be blurred. The idea that there is such a thing as human exceptionalism, man being the rational animal with a God-created soul and free will, will be cast aside as "speciesism."
Rejecting human exceptionalism and the personhood of all human beings is a rejection of the essential teaching of the Holy Scriptures that God has a special plan for man, who has a special destiny and opportunity to reflect God's will on Earth and to find salvation. Those who propose personhood for animals completely reject the sanctity of human life. For example, they reason that if dogs can morally be euthanized, then men can be euthanized, and that is what we see being done in culture of death healthcare systems.
Ignoring all of the divine and the natural moral law, man sets up false standards with which to "weigh" the worth of a human life. He uses false scales to mete out his unjust rulings. Whenever there is a question of life or death for the vulnerable, he ends in favoring imposed death! Yet we should remember that "The Lord detests dishonest scales .... (Proverbs 11:1)." God is a God of justice, and whatever the good actually is involves justice, mercy, and faith (Matthew 23:23).
Man's secular bioethics9 teaches that the "good" to be done may be done at the expense of the individual. He says that "justice" is done when "scarce resources" are given to some while the unwanted are deliberately denied care so that they die. He says that the patient has a right to determine his own treatment and therefore, when a patient is unable to speak for himself, death is decreed for him by someone else! While he says that there is "not enough money to pay for the care of those in need," he looks the other way when much larger sums are secretly paid to friends in high places.
When man judges rightly, he does so in accordance with the divine and the natural moral law, but when he judges wrongly to the detriment of others, he does so in darkness, without the light of God's wisdom guiding his steps. Is it any wonder that in his insanity, man chooses to deny God, as well as His law, and then, in the name of the "good," man creates death mills within health "care" systems or gas chambers to "purify" the people who inhabit the land?
Just as man seeks ultimate fulfillment in those things that can never satisfy his endless desires, man seeks to do the ultimate good in actions that never actually bring good into this world. Searching in the wrong places, in the wrong way, man only adds to his suffering. Choosing, willing and doing wrongly only bring about more harm.
This is what is called "sin" or "evil" in this world: denying God, devaluing the lives of the people, violating the divine and the natural moral law, refusing to open to love for God or for man. Man, blinded by his arrogance, believes he knows what he needs to know and charges forward. He is arrogant, ambitious, stubborn, insensitive, impatient, insatiable, irritable, and frantic to prove how much "fun" he is having, and he is impulsive, unrestrained, easily angered, vengeful, violent, greedy, jealous, and always remembers the wrongs done to himself. If he believes in anything, he believes in himself.
Man Must Choose
We look at the gazelle on the African plains and admire their speed, strength, their ability to jump, but when they get a little slower, they cannot keep up with the herd. For those who are slower, sicker, older, nobody stops to say, "Goodbye!" when the lion, who stalks them, gobbles them up. In the animal world in Nature this is right. But, when your wife or husband, son or daughter, father or mother, become a little sick, a little slower, shall we be man? Shall we be human and care for them? Or, shall we, like the Nazis, let them be taken away to be discarded efficiently without even a "Goodbye?"
We admire the fish that swim in huge schools and come in all sizes, shapes and colors, but if one becomes sick, the others may pick at it and nibble, and very practically, eventually eat it. Shall we be like the fish and cannibalistically eat our own? Shall we honor those with disabilities who work hard to achieve in the Special Olympics, or shall we kill them as the Nazis did?
We look at the great apes and think they are majestic. "How human they seem!" But the strongest, shrewdest, and most powerful male dominates the band and may take, i.e., rape in human terminology, any female he desires. He will beat up any others who challenge him so all cower and submit to the dominant male of the group. Is this how we shall live? Or shall we be truly human?
We look at the beautiful dolphins and think how wonderful they are. "How intelligent and friendly they are!" "See, how they communicate!" Yet, again, many do not know how violent or aggressive dolphins can be. They do not know that researchers have observed that two or more male dolphins may form bonds, working together to kidnap a female and keep the female between the two of them for months so she will only mate with them.10 They do not know they can use their "beaks" to kill other dolphins or other sea-dwelling creatures. Is this an example of a wonderful "personhood" we humans should emulate? Or shall we be truly human?
Man must choose! Shall we be arrogant, aggressive, self-centered and domineering like brutes? Or shall we care for each other, help each other when one is sick, weak or old? Although it is admirable when man builds a tower, a bridge, or flies to the moon, these alone do not make him truly great. Man is great because he builds hospitals and cares for those in need. Man is great when, through agriculture and industry, he provides goods and services for the benefit of others.
Man is great when he cooperates with others, communicates and shares resources to improve conditions for all. Man always has the choice to live like an animal or to be civilized. What makes man civilized is whether he cares for others. When man is arrogant, he is an animal, but when he is humble, he becomes man in this world. To restore the culture of life, we need to be that man, humble, reverent and caring! It is the dear Lord who is our Teacher, who shows us how to be so much more than a brute.
But proud man not only fails to open to God and to His love, he forgives no one, sacrifices nothing and hates! He especially hates those of faith, the divine and the natural moral law and God. He despises anyone who exposes the truth about what he really is like underneath the facade. He considers himself great and demands that respect and honor be given to him. He turns his back on the light and busies himself with anything in this world but that which gives reverence to God and the life He gives.
With hundreds of millions killed over time as a result of his policies, his violence, his wars, is it any wonder man is called "the destroyer" or the world's "most dangerous animal?" Man is his own worst enemy and the enemy of the vulnerable all around the world.
Aristotle observed that "man is the most noble of animals if he" is "perfect in virtue," but is "the lowest of all, if he" is "severed from law and righteousness."11 Even if any of us condemn man when he lawlessly harms others, we are all "man," proud, self-centered, and defiant. We are all greedy, argumentative, and unthinking at times.
Man may create vast armies and powerful businesses and enterprises. Armies can be used to defend the people or to terrorize the people. Businesses and enterprises may be used to amass vast personal wealth at the expense of others or to actually provide goods and services for the welfare of the people.
What happens when business leaders look to short-term gain without any concern for the harm that may arise out of business activities? When industries spew pollution into the air, the water, and the land, generations of people as well as animals and plants are adversely affected.
Government officials that have been corrupted and influenced by those who stand to benefit, do nothing, whether the government is a monarchy, a republic or democracy, whether the economy is socialist or capitalist. Unjust policies and the force of government are used to protect those who do harm. This is proud man at work in the world. This, too, is part of the culture of death.
Underneath our own way of being, whatever we may think ourselves to be, something of the culture of death survives. Even when we proudly say to ourselves, "Thank God I am not like those other terrible people who ...." we betray how wrong we are (Luke 18:9-14). If we hear this and then say, "but I'm not that bad!" we have completely missed the truth: Yes! We all each one of us, you, me, everyone are all that bad! We all have that lower, carnal nature, but it is restrained when the Holy Spirit lives within our hearts.
Some students learn in math classes that if we were to jump halfway to a gateway, and keep jumping halfway an infinite number of times, we would never reach that gateway or go through. In calculus, we assume for the practical purpose of our calculations, that we get there, or that jumping an infinite number of times is "the equivalent" of getting there. However, the truth is that we are always halfway not there, however infinitesimally small that distance may be.
Imagine that God is that gateway to all that is good, and we try so many ways to reach and go through, but we only go halfway each time. We're halfway good, and then a little bit more halfway good, but we're never truly, completely and purely good!
In fact, we're always somehow halfway bad, never completely casting off that darkness through our own efforts. And that darkness, however small we may imagine it to be, makes us imperfect, impure, and unworthy to enter the kingdom of heaven, just as even a little poison in the water makes it all undrinkable and dangerous!
We never reach, no matter how "good" we try to prove we are. For God demands perfection to go through that gateway. With our own effort, we never make it, but through His grace, we are saved.
If there is even the slightest good in us and in what we do or how we serve, it is His goodness, His mercy, His love that shines through! When we vividly see this truth and remember it, we hold fast to a lifeline of humility. Humility enables us to accurately see the wretchedness of our own limited nature while gratefully acknowledging the blessings He has given us to allow us to do anything good at all in this world.
Some will consider that an extreme statement, but the dear Lord actually meant what He said, "No one is good except God alone (Luke 18:19)." Those who have contemplated, who have prayed, who have meditated and looked deeply within see that the mind and heart of man contain much that is hidden even from man: himself.
Once we have looked in the mirror, having honestly examined ourselves, we are confronted with the choice of continuing to lie to ourselves and to pridefully assert that we are good, or, we can admit the truth: we are not good, but God is and He cares! If we admit the truth, then we have another choice: to ask for His help or not. It is when the Lord lives His life in and through us that we are able to truly live as He would have us live.
In everything man does, as long as he lives and in every moment he lives, all man really does is accept and embrace the dear Lord, or reject Him.
In so choosing, man decides for himself whether he will remain lost in the world, or allow himself to be found and saved. Proud man believes that asking for help, most especially from God, is a defeat, and tragically keeps struggling to do things his own way even till the day he dies. Humble man rejoices, knowing he has finally been saved by the dear Lord.
Everything man does, whether in healthcare, industry, science, family and community life or elsewhere, is either done as proud man in the world, or as humble man before God. All religion, all ceremony, all ritual, all prayer is either done as proud man, and is therefore hollow and insincere, or is done as humble man and is authentic.
Authentic religion, ceremony, ritual, music, art, and prayer elevate and ennoble man and all of society, inspiring him to be the best he could ever be. Authentic traditions in many cultures teach man to be humble and embrace the natural moral law. When a humble man worships, that religion is the highest moral virtue, actually bringing man back to God, binding them together in a way that changes everything man does. This is the way He showed.
No institution "possesses" the reality of what religion is. An institution may promote religion but cannot impose it or take it away from a man's heart and mind. We can access information, advice and instruction from various leaders, but ultimately, this is all about you and me, man in the world, present before our awesome Lord God Almighty. This is about the relationship you and I have with Him. That is religion, nothing else.
When that relationship is as it is intended to be, the culture of life is restored to all man does in the world, along with sanity, good will and love. When society is composed of such individuals, the culture of life is restored to the entire community. All religious ceremonies, services, books, practices, and speeches may be uplifting, purifying, and inspiring aids to us, even sacred aids, but their ultimate purpose is to remind man to pay greater attention to what goes on between himself and God.
It is man who must decide and then open to the Truth. This is the greatest of all the acts of man. The dear Lord says,
All of us at some point in our lives ask, as did Pontius Pilate, "What is truth (John 18:38)?"... and we either live out our entire lives rhetorically asking the question insincerely as if there is no truth to be found and therefore no need to look for it, or, we seek with all we are and find Him. This is not an academic matter!
People want to know why they should do the good and avoid the evil. They want to know how the culture of life is established, and what the answer is to man's suffering what the answer to the evil in the world is. They want to know why their loved ones were killed, why there seems to be no justice for those who are victimized. They look all around from horizon to horizon and believe that justice is unattainable.
There is no answer outside each one of us, without accepting the Lord of all Creation and revering Him. Man, whether young, middle-aged, or old, cannot avoid the stark reality of his plight; he is stuck until he gives every bit of himself to our Beloved. St. Thomas Aquinas says this as clear as it could be stated: the essence of religion12 is to have a real
"relation to God. For it is He to Whom we ought to be bound as to our unfailing principle;
Like a scholar who memorizes every word in a cookbook, but has never tasted the dishes to be prepared, the pseudo-religious may know every verse in Scripture and be well-respected in the community, but if they have no inner relationship with God, having not received the Holy Spirit, they really know little at all about the subject (Matthew 23).13
The natural sciences may be considered the "systematic observation of natural events and conditions in order to discover facts about them and to formulate laws and principles based on these facts."14 Natural science has as its object of inquiry all that exists materially in the universe.
While religion in a man is a virtue that leads him to God, to establish relationship with God, religious inquiry may be considered a science directed toward God, whose object is God, and the discovery of the sacred doctrine15 that sets forth what is true about God.
Prayer, the contemplation of and meditation upon and reaching out to our Lord, wonderfully loving acts of mercy and kindness in the world, and other activities arising out of faith and humility are part of man's religious activity that carry him along on his secret journey. These ways of opening to the Lord allow man to experience unimagined grace.
On the other hand, man without grace lives viciously like an animal, and often, much worse. Animals never wage war, but they act to defend their territory or to acquire food. Ruled by his pride, greed and passions, man succumbs to complete madness and kills without restraint.
The man who has opened to the dear Lord's grace acquires the virtues that allow him to find the right way and sanely live in harmony with others.
In natural scientific inquiry, scientists test hypotheses or theories through carefully-designed experiments that must be verifiable in order to stand up to scrutiny. In true religion, an eternal way is taken in which man himself is the experimental laboratory. The conditions for the experiment are determined by God Himself, explained by the saints and prophets, and the results are verifiable by any who choose to, will to and actually do fulfill those conditions by humbly and sincerely seeking Him.
Those who are sincere and good-hearted will receive that blessing from above, and their eyes are opened and they see everything in a quite different way (John 3:1-21, Revelation 3:18). Religious activity is therefore, the way man reaches out to God and connects with Him. In reaching out to God, man gives to God that which is right to give Him: the highest honor, the greatest reverence and purest adoration. In giving God what is due Him, we can see that religion is a part of the virtue of justice.
For the man who has truly given himself to Him, everything he does, and how he does it, is an expression of his love for Him and is a demonstration of religion. When a physician, nurse, patient advocate or other healthcare worker is dedicated to do good for those who are most vulnerable, so that God is served through those patients, it becomes an expression of his or her faith. This is the culture of life in action. Jesus teaches us:
If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself,
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer says,16 commenting upon this passage:
"To deny oneself is to be aware only of Christ and no more of self, to see only Him who goes before and no more the road which is too hard for us. … All that self-denial can say is: "He leads the way, keep close to Him." "... and take up his cross."
Even then, being imperfect, man may strive to know how best to act so that the life of others is protected and the suffering of others is eased, but he will only partially succeed. Retaining his pride, man struggles within himself to do good but sometimes ends up doing harm. We only imperfectly demonstrate any of the virtues in our actions. It is only when man gives himself more completely to God, forgetting himself utterly, that he opens himself to God's perfecting grace and the fullness of sacrificial love.
When he has opened to Him, man is enabled to know more completely what is the right, and enabled to do the good works God intends him to do. The virtues are then infused in man through grace and the virtues arise within his life. Out of divine love flowing through his heart, he is inspired to act rightly according to right reason.
The man who acquires any of the virtues out of God's grace also acquires the others. If he possesses prudence out of God's grace, he possesses right reason, and also must possess justice, fortitude and temperance as well as other moral virtues. If a man lacks any of these in their more perfected form, he lacks the others.17
There is no quick and easy answer to the evil in this world without man changing himself. Just as man has repeatedly turned away from the right way and created habits of acting wrongly, man can turn around and through faith begin anew. He can then strive to renew reverence for God within his heart, strive to honor God in all he does, and repeatedly correct himself when he goes astray.
4. For more information about establishing safe havens for the vulnerable,
6. St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila), "The Effects of the Divine Graces in the Soul. The Inestimable Greatness
7. St. Thomas Aquinas, "Whether this word "person" signifies relation?," "The Divine Persons,"
8. Diane N Irving, MA, PhD: ""'Non-Human Animal' Personhood and the IEET""
10. Staff, "Introduction to Bottle-Nosed Dolphins' Aggressive Behavior," 2013, AnimalPlanet.com Also see:
13. St. Thomas Aquinas, "Whether the act of faith is suitably distinguished as believing God,
14. Christopher G Morris, editor, "Academic Press Dictionary of Science & Technology," Academic Press,