Madonna and Child with Saints Jerome and Francis
Oil Painting Reproduction on Canvas
Artist: Paris Bordone
Date: 1525, High Renaissance
Museum: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA
The Babe Himself pictured, in the arms of the Madonna, grew to be the Man Jesus Christ. Believe in Him or reject Him, He is, indubitably, the most influential Man in the history of this world, despite what certain Kings, Princes and even latter-day politicians, might be thinking. It was said often, and early, of His Followers “look at the Christians, how they love one another.” As love has to do with happiness, we all ought be mindful this morning that a man who holds tight to disbelief holds tight likewise to unhappiness. We ask, why would a man hold tight to unhappiness? That is–for what purpose–to what end?
It comes to me this morning, and sleepily early too, in the discussion group set aside for, speechwriters no less, that 20 percent of the Americans profess no belief in God, a Creator or an afterlife. This does not surprise me, in fact, I find that number quite low given the present state of things. The Americans are a notably unhappy people today. Look in their faces. Do they not put the question to themselves–“why am I so unhappy?”
As to disbelief, I am disbelieving that anybody who is marginally reflective has not asked himself–“is there a connection between my being so unhappy and my disbelief in God, a Creator and an afterlife?” If one does not believe in those basic things, one is not happy–it simply is not possible. I have never met a happy non-believer.
It is not a function of proving the existence of God, it is simply a function of a basic observation that Man needs God far more so than the other way about. God does not need us, we need Him. God fills a need in Man that Man cannot hope to satisfy anywhere else.
As a former seminarian, I am often asked childlike questions–to wit “I don’t believe in God–prove Him to me–how can you do that?” My response “you don’t believe in God, so what? He either exists or He doesn’t. His existence is not dependent upon, contingent upon, or related to, your belief in him.” I am not a missionary priest, I am not on a crusade to convert you–and, put, perhaps pointedly, blunt–I couldn’t care less if you believe in Him or no.”
I do suppose that many believers are hedged fund men in the sense that they realize that their belief or disbelief had better prove out when they die.
That is–place your bets–the card of belief or the card of disbelief–but you’d best bet correctly. That is the one bet you do not want to lose. Hedged funds aside, God fills a need–we all know this–we also all know that the need He fills cannot be filled anywhere else, except in belief. In truth this is not a complex question. God’s existence is self-evident. His existence is, as the legal men say, res ipsa.
I will say that the immense sadness, the all-pervasive sense of gloom that overhangs the world of our modern era is, to my mind, largely down to a rejection of belief in God. God fills a need in Man that cannot be met anywhere else.
Since our egress from the Garden, no civilization–not one–has failed to recognize our connection to the supernatural. Until our own. I do not know what the sad, gloomy people of the modern world are connected to, after having registered their rejection of the supernatural and of God. Some will say God is now become science, others say He lives in political holy books, others find Him in computer machines and attending gadgetry, still others discover Him in mere craven materialism–and many others, likely many other, things. The point is, while they reject Him of Himself, they look for Him in worldly things because they know they need him. Very sad business that. Very sad.
What makes our strange, sad time uniquely lamentable, is that a large number of the people both reject God and reject any need of a connection to the supernatural, in very proud and public way. I can say this categorically about that new condition of modern man: Such a lack of connection, such a rejection of God leads, demonstrably, indisputably, to a society of sad men. Sad men. Sad men who are proud of their new toys that replace God and the supernatural, notwithstanding that their toys make them so very sad.
Proud, yet sad and unhappy men of science, today demand of me proof of God. I say, it is not for those who believe to prove to those who do not, the need for a God, or of His existence, it is rather for those who disbelieve to demonstrate that they are somehow happy in their unhappiness–their having rejected God and the supernatural.
If modern men have hedged bets against belief in God, they have drawn a far tougher hand to play, in my book, than have those who have hedged for belief in God, men such as me.
Best luck to them, the hedged disbelievers. They are going to need it. Both here, where they will be unhappy for maybe 100 years, and also, well–for what is called eternity–a rather long time to be sad.
For me, religion is for those in need. But God is for those who is lucky.
Brother Stephen–Charity is very important and in fact, I need to write on it because I have very firm opinions about it as being a personal responsibility that has today been abbrogated–I affirm man–to–man charity myself, but yes, Ash Wednesday is very much about charity and doing without for others. John